Meet Esther

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Esther: Barista ready to takeoff

With Canadian consumer debt at an all-time high, and a dizzying array of options to save, spend, borrow and invest, making informed financial choices has never been more important.

Meet Esther, a Canadian who’s striking a balance between saving and soaring.

Esther Johnson is putting together one delicious looking latte, topping it off with an intricate milky design. When asked how she does it, she replies, “It’s easier than you think.” This young part-time barista is studying full-time to be a graphic designer and is just about to graduate. She is already well on her way with her own website up and running, and with contracts already coming in. Being a self-employed graphic designer will allow her to pursue her other passion, world travel.

“I could freelance from anywhere around the world as long as I have internet and my computer,” says Esther.

Love of travel

Like many high school graduates, Esther was not sure what she wanted to do, so she took a year off to work and travel. She went on a three-week backpacking trip with her sister across California. “It was my first back backing trip and I organized it all,” says Esther. She took a subsequent trip to Europe with her mom. “I was supposed to go with a friend but it fell through so I actually ended up going with my mom and it was incredible, better than I ever thought […] it’s one of the dearest memories I have,” she added. Her latest trip was a Hawaiian adventure with a friend.

How she does it

How does a full-time student working part-time manage to travel internationally? Is she swimming in debt like many students are? “I don’t have any student debt,” says Esther. She credits her financial discipline to her parents. “My parents drilled it into my head to start saving. I opened a savings account early.” She counts herself very lucky to have the support of her family. Living at home while studying and getting some help to pay for part of her tuition does give her some room to breath even though she pays most of her expenses herself.

Esther’s trick is to set herself saving goals. “I see everything in terms of plane tickets,” says Esther. “I save half or more of my income.” The leftover is what she has to spend for the next two weeks. Working as a barista gives her the flexibility to work when she needs to and to take off for a few weeks at a time when a travel adventure calls. As she states, “I have prioritised to travel and I will make that happen.”

What financial wellness means to her

To Esther, financial wellness is a balancing act between being financially responsible but also making time and space for having fun. She explains that it’s about, “balancing having fun but also putting away money aside for the future; long term and short term.” For example, she won’t deny herself going into short-term debt for a special experience, but her mind is set on paying that off as soon as possible.

Her tips for students

When asked what tips she would share to others, Esther focusses on savings, just as her parents did with her. “You should be saving if you can,” she says. “Never spend money you don’t have.”

What’s next for Esther

Esther has her career in mind these days, “I need to find a co-op in order to complete my graphic design program,” she says. After that, she hopes to have her own business getting contracts where she can giving her the flexibility to keep on travelling.

Related tools

If you want to manage your finances like Esther, check out our many interactive tools and resources that can help give you the financial edge.

Related links

Issues relating to personal finance change with age. Here are some personal financial resources for young adults starting their careers:

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