The greener, more affordable pastures on the other side of the Rockies that young Vancouverites can’t seem to stop fleeing to.
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While the big metros like Vancouver and Toronto seem to be chewing up and spitting out millennials, Calgary is often seen as the financial safe-haven for Canada’s youth who are looking to, you know, actually own a home someday.
But just how accurate is that depiction?
The economy has not been its best over the past few years here in YYC, and while it may be a renters’ market, keeping/finding a job that pays well enough for one to live alone in the heart of downtown is another issue entirely.
So, just how much would it cost for a 20 or 30-something to live it up in Calgary’s downtown core? Well, we figured we’d crunch the numbers to find out.
Housing = $1,530 per month
According to Numbeo, a website that compares costs of living in global cities, the average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in the downtown core is currently $1,267. And that cost is in line with Padmapper as well, which lists one bedrooms at $1,100.
But that cost doesn’t include hydro or internet.
Numbeo averages the cost of basic utilities for a Calgarian at $186 — that’s twice as much as in Vancouver — and since we don’t want to use up all our data while swiping left, adding internet costs an additional $77 on average per month.
So, to recap the math, if you’re a solo dweller in a one bedroom, you can expect to dish out a minimum of $1,530.
Phone = $75 per month
There is a reason we all go crazy when mobile providers offer $50 plans with over 2 or 3 GB of data. Phone plans are notoriously expensive in Canada, so much than even our Economic Development Minister thinks it’s ridiculous.
And it’s all for good reason. According to the 2015 CRTC-commissioned Wall Report, an unlimited talk-and-text cellphone plan with 5 GB of data costs an average of $107.50 in Canada. But since we’re talking minimum costs, a 2 GB is around $75 a month. And that doesn’t include our overages fees…
Transportation = $106 per month
For many downtown dwellers, the core of the city is small enough to generally walk from point A to B. It’s part of the reason we shell out the extra dough monthly to live in a neighbourhood like Beltline.
Generally, transportation costs can be low, but, for those who do transit to and from work, it costs $106 per month for a transit pass for adults.
Some downtown residents are taking advantage of all our bike lanes, which is great and keeps transit cost at a minimum — and while it’s nice that you can ride the CTrain for free downtown, we’re sure you’ll need to venture out of the DT core at least a few times a month.
Groceries and household items = $214 per month
Stats Canada shows that the average Canadian spends about $214 per month on food — though that’s not including money spent eating out, just the groceries that go bad in the fridge because you forgot to bring lunch today so you might as well grab some food downtown — speaking of which…
Entertainment and dining out = $270 per month
One of the most exciting things about living downtown is you can walk to any and every bar or restaurant in the area. Of course, this can also be the downfall to your savings.
After fully blaming our avo toast obsessions as the reason we can’t afford to buy homes, the reality of dining out became much clearer in terms of cost. Because, well, it really does add up.
According to Numbeo, the average price of a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is $65 – a figure that seems pretty low, especially considering the cost of booze. To make it more realistic, add another $20 to the tab for two drinks (plus tip).
And that’s for just one night out.
Realistically, a month includes at least one dinner, a brunch or two, and a couple of movie nights. You’re looking at a minimum of $270 per month, and that’s if you’re forcing yourself to stay in most nights.
Don’t believe us? Check your bank statement and count up the amount of money you’ve spent on a lunch here, a dinner there… If you’re not recoiling in absolute shame, an honest kudos to you! Everyone else… yeah, we feel you.
Partying = $100 per month
Because the party doesn’t stop just because you’re an adult, we’re giving this its own category. Heading out for a drink (or seven) keeps many downtown dwellers sane, and it’s one expense we happily choose to cover.
On average, expect to fork out $10 per drink in downtown. And since there are generally four weekends per month, if we average going out one night per weekend (again, important for staying sane), and have 2 to 3 drinks per outing, we’re looking at $90-110 at least.
Bottle service not included (Nor is your late-night poutine).
Health and fitness = $75 per month
One of the major features for many living in Calgary is the healthy lifestyle the city offers. From hiking in the Rockies to surfing on the Bow River, there are many ways to stay fit without breaking the bank.
….But it’s a little hard to be motivated to go out for that run or dust off your bike when it’s -18°C out, so we wouldn’t blame you for shelling out some cash to workout indoors — and given that a membership at the YMCA comes in at a cool $75, we’ll call it at that.
Hey, shovelling snow counts as a workout too, right?
Coffee (not from your home) = $30 per month
We wouldn’t be true downtown residents without supporting our local coffee shops, and there are so many to choose from you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to grab a coffee before a day in the office, right?
Keeping the coffee purchases minimal sans fancy sprinkly drinks, just a large coffee here, and an Americano there ($3), it adds up to about $30 monthly for the java juice — even if you’re mostly drinking the stuff you have at home/in the office.
Extras = $100 per month
Sticking to the bare minimum, and not counting what most of us would consider essentials (think haircuts and clothes), there are often unexpected extra costs that come up. From a broken phone screen to suddenly needing a space heater, we’re filing these as monthly “extra” miscellaneous cost.
We’re going to average this to about $100 a month for those just-in-case expenses.
THE GRAND TOTAL
So what does this look like when it all adds up? Way too real, that’s what:
Groceries/Household Items: $214
Dining Out: $250
Health and Fitness: $75
Total: $2,480 per month/ $29,760 (after taxes) annually
That means you need to make a minimum salary of roughly $36,500 before taxes in order to bring home an annual income of $29,760 after taxes, CPP, and EI. That will leave you with a little less than $100 a month in breathing room, and you’ll need it since we haven’t even mentioned paying off debt or saving.
In other words, if you’re a single 20 or 30-something looking to live alone in downtown Calgary, anything under $36K a year means you’re probably out of luck and need to look elsewhere or find roommates.
That’s honestly not so bad, given that the current minimum wage of $15 an hour will net you a take-home salary of $24,460.
It’s not quite enough to live in downtown on your own, but saving a few bucks here and there should shorten that gap by a bit.