As one of the most beautiful provinces to live in, British Columbia is also one of the most expensive provinces to live in. This is skewed of course by notoriously expensive Vancouver.
Vancouver is expensive. There’s no doubt about that. According to a 2006 census cited by Canada.com, more than 29% of British Columbians are spending more than 30% of their income on shelter costs such as mortgage payments, rent, utilities, and property taxes.
So how does one live frugally in Vancouver and manage to save money?
Here are a few of the secret (or not so secret) reasons on how to live frugally in Vancouver:
Do More, Spend Less
Vancouver is full of ridiculously health conscious and fit (not to mention good-looking) people. People are busy spending time toning their bodies, looking good, burning fat, and putting their hands at heart-centre.
When you’re busy working on yourself and taking care of yourself, you spend less time filling the void with consumerism and materialism.
Although the cost of gym memberships ($40 average), yoga memberships ($130 average) and Grouse grind memberships ($99 for the season) can be costly on a monthly basis, these unlimited monthly passes may in fact be the saving grace to prevent people from spending money on shopping for the sake of shopping.
Although Vancouver has some world-class expensive restaurants, Vancouver is also a city where you can get some really decent (and cheap) meals. For example, you can get a meal for $5.95 or a piping hot bowl of fresh Vietnamese noodle soup for $6.50.
Living Fabulously and Frugal in Vancouver is a popular website that shares all the cheap events and food options and promotions available in Vancouver.
Finally, a lot of people in Vancouver use Groupon or other social deal sites for many things, especially meals. Although the daily deal craze has finally died down, many people still use these deals to save on entertainment and eating out costs.
Room Mates and Tenants
In Vancouver proper (and even in the outlying suburbs) most people share their space. Basement suites with tenants or room mates renting a room to help out with the mortgage, and of course room mates to help out with the sharing the rent. Not to mention the laneway houses in Vancouver to maximize housing density and increase affordability in Vancouver.
An average room for rent in Vancouver starts from around $350 to $500. Renting out a basement suite can add an extra $900 to $1350 (I’ve also seen $1500+) depending on where your home is.
Since Vancouver is pretty densely populated, most people commute. And not by car. Many people in Vancouver (remember, this is the uber healthy city we’re talking about) commute by bicycle. With a vast network of cycling paths and even dedicated lanes on bridges and on larger streets, cycling has become a very popular (and free) way to commute to work or school.
The only downside is the initial cost of the fancy commuter or road bike, but once this is out of the way, the only downside thereafter is well, really nothing (unless someone steals your bike and sells it for $50 on Craigslist). Because exercise and free commuting is win-win.
For trips that necessitate a car, there are many car co-op programs that are proliferating throughout the city. Some of these are location independent (meaning you don’t have to retrieve the car from a designated spot) and you can locate one near you because they have GPS within. Some of these only cost $0.38 a minute (and you don’t have to return the car to the original location). Yes, this makes it cheaper than taking the bus if you’re going a short distance within the city.
Not having a car can save hundreds from your monthly commuting costs.
Vancouver is a No Fun City
Vancouver is notorious for being a “no fun” city because it is difficult to meet people. Streets are usually quiet at night in down town It is difficult to meet people because most people socialize at house parties. Whether this is because Vancouver’s shelter costs are expensive so people try to keep entertainment costs down… or whether it is because people want to show off their homes is unbeknownst to me.
Saving money on “night out on the town” entertainment costs on a weekly basis can save an individual $200+ a month.
These are just some of the ways that I’ve noticed in myself and other Vancouverites. Perhaps high housing costs have shaped the frugal lifestyles individuals living in Vancouver. Whatever it is, many people who live in Vancouver love Vancouver and don’t want to leave it, despite exorbitant cost of housing.
Where else can you take a stroll on the beach (albeit a cold stroll) and go snowboarding or skiing, all in the same afternoon?
About the Author: Clare is a 20-something who lives in beautiful (but expensive) British Columbia and has been working on her frugal living skills and fighting lifestyle inflation. She works to expand her DIY investment knowledge and hopes to enjoy financial independence one day. She enjoys reading personal finance books, freelance writing, but not so much arithmetic.