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How a Freelancer Making $20K a Year Shops

Kate Killet, a photographer in Toronto, barters with the brands she works with and is a serious fan of thrifting.

An illustration of a coin being dropped into a piggy bank.

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Welcome to Racked’s How Do You Shop? series, in which we ask a variety of people some deeply personal questions about how they earn, save, and especially spend their money. If you know or are someone with an interesting relationship to $$$, email

This week, we spoke with Kate Killet, a 26-year-old freelance photographer, writer, show booker, nonprofit owner, and true jack-of-all-trades in Toronto about her spending habits as a young creative person always looking for the next big thing.

Salary: “It really depends: somewhere around $15,000 [CAD] to $20,000 depending on how good the year is.”

Rent: $1,000, no roommates

Average money put toward savings per month: $100

Average money put toward clothing per month: $50

Most she’d spend on jeans: $99 (if they fit perfectly)

Most she’d spend on a T-shirt: $40

Most she’d spend on a bag: $100

Most she’d spend on a fancy outfit: $100

What’s your job?

I’m a freelance photographer and writer. I also run a nonprofit called Posi Vibez, putting on parties and events with a focus on social justice and safe spaces.

How did you get started doing all those things?

I started writing and doing photography when I was 16 working at [television network] Much Music. I was a little blog nerd. I was really lucky — since I commented on the Much Music events they reached out to me and asked if I was interested in writing and it spiraled from there. I’m obsessed with everything and I don’t know how to stop.

Do you have other sources of income?

My schedule works out in a way where I’ll often work on the festival side of things. I’ve worked with film festivals in the past; I’ve gotten really good at picking up random jobs to fill in those gaps. It’ll be anything from working the door at parties to working as a consultant with brands. That helps out a lot, filling in those money gaps. DJing, too. I do too many things that I forget sometimes.

What’s your biggest monthly expense besides rent? Toronto is such an expensive city!

I have a really serious Uber problem and because I overwork myself I sometimes forget to eat, so I have a really serious delivery problem, too.

You don’t have a car, so how much do you spend on Uber and delivery a month?

Honestly, $100 or more. It’s far too much and I need to be stopped.

How much do you put toward savings, if you save?

I have a savings account. Whenever I get a paycheck that’s over $100 I’ll try to split it up. I’ll split it between that and my credit card, which always seems to be maxed. I try to put as much on my credit card as I can to get those flight points to help me travel for work. It’s the difference between paying $100 for a flight that’s usually $400. That little bit goes a long way. You’re spending money anyway; it might as well go toward a cheaper flight.

Whatever I don’t have to pay off on my credit card I try to put in savings for future travel. The savings dwindle pretty fast.

How much would you say you spend on clothing per month?

Not that much, to be honest. I really try and finagle my work into my wardrobe. I would say 80 percent of my closet is band merch that I’ve gotten for free or by working with [the band]. If I really like a certain brand, like Hayley Elsaesser for example, I did a piece with them and from there asked, “How can I rep you guys? How can I work with you? I don’t have $300 for overalls, but I can pay $70 for that.” Then that’s my one big purchase for a couple months. I try to work out deals with brands and local clothing lines I like. I try focus on and work with local Toronto designers, even vintage stores. It’s an “I help you, you help me” situation. It’s an out-of-necessity thing — I can’t afford cool shit, but I work my ass off.

I’m really into having small, signature pieces that I wear all the time. When I do spend money on something, I’m still trying to support musicians or bands that I like that are independent. I don’t feel guilty about spending money if it’s going to an artist I appreciate.

Do you think there’s pressure to look a certain way in creative fields, especially music? Festival fashion is such a thing now.

Because I am a photographer and I was just shooting a festival fashion piece at Osheaga [in Montreal], it helps — if you’re approaching people and asking to take their photos, you want to be up to snuff as well. That’s especially true if you’re approaching people playing the festival. I’m also just a goof and I enjoy wearing stuff that’s unusual and stands out. Sometimes I can be shy and it’s nice to let the outfit do the talking for me.

Kate at a music festival
Photo: Matt Williams

What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a single clothing item?

I recently got a skirt from Hayley Elsaesser — they gave me a deal. It was $70 and that felt really crazy to me, but that was me [thinking], “Okay, this is the one thing I’m getting for myself this summer. I know I’m going to wear it a shit-ton.” I have a hard time spending more than $100 on anything because that’s a bunch of work. If its really dope and I know I’m going to get a lot of wear out of it, then I’ll do that. There are only really two or three of those purchases a year.

How much of your wardrobe comes from thrift/vintage/consignment shops?

Probably 80 percent! Whenever I travel I usually end up picking something up at a vintage place because I’ve forgotten to pack something, but then it ends up being a nice little memory. Vintage stuff is typically less expensive and still dope. There’s this thing in Toronto called Bunz, a trading group. Everything is for trade — there’s no money [exchanged]. I do a lot of Bunz trading; I’ve acquired a lot of pieces from there.

Do you ever feel pressured to shop?

I definitely find that the industry that I’m in can be style-focused and brand-focused, so there is this “keeping up with the Joneses” anxiety that I get sometimes. Whatever the cool Instagram girls are wearing, [if] I feel jealous I just remember that if I bought those $300 platforms, I wouldn’t be able to travel for my next project. The logical part of my brain allows me to feel less bad.