For a while, it seemed like we were reading those exodus op-eds daily. Young people living in the city were finding it severely unaffordable, and looking elsewhere in the province (or the country) to establish a more economically stable life.
But some of us are sticking it out. Like a mediocre Tinder date, we’re just giving it some time to suss it out a little more (and enjoy another drink or two). Because, while it is often overpriced and overhyped, Vancouver is actually a beautiful city — nature wise at least. Having lived on both coasts, and in three major Canadian cities, it’s safe to say Vancouver has the best VIEWS (sorry, Drake), and being here truly does encourage a healthier lifestyle.
And yes, while there is all this beauty, Vancouver’s rep definitely gets tainted by the cost of living here.
Simply put – it is far from cheap to live alone in this city.
Gone are the days of hand-me-down homes from parents, and affordable down payments for mortgages – adulthood vacation is over. So to show how just expensive this city is, we broke down monthly costs based on a single person living and renting in downtown Vancouver (while trying to have any kind of life).
Might want to hold off on that extra guac while you read this…
Housing = $2,081.56 per month
Recently, the City of Vancouver listed “affordable housing” as $1,730 for a one-bedroom apartment. And while that might seem absurd, the reality for any single dweller living downtown is actually higher than that.
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 $1,926.97. And that cost is more inline with Padmapper as well, which lists one bedrooms at $1,990.
But that cost doesn’t include hydro or internet.
Numbeo averages the cost of basic utilities for a Vancouverite at $82.10, and since we don’t want to use up all our data while swiping left, adding internet costs an additional $72.49 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 $2,081.56.
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 = $93 per month
For many downtown dwellers, Vancouver is small enough to generally walk from point A to B in the city’s core. It’s part of the reason we shell out the extra dough monthly to live in a neighbourhood like Yaletown.
Generally, transportation costs can be low, especially since we still don’t have Uber and aren’t using it extravagantly to cross the bridge.
But, for those who do transit to and from work by using Translink, it costs $93 per month for a transit pass for one zone.
Some downtown residents are taking advantage of all our bike lanes, which is great and keeps transit cost at a minimum.
As for cars… what car? We live downtown.
Groceries and household items = $315 per month
A recent report showed that Vancouverites spend an average of $211.97 per month on groceries per person. Taking into account the higher costs of downtown grocery stores, the extra avocados we buy to avoid avo toast at brunch, and adding any drug store items, this cost increases by at least $100 per month. This puts us at around the $315 monthly just for basic items.
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 $70.00 – a figure that seems pretty low, especially considering the cost of booze. To make it more realistic, add another $30.00 to the tab and assume the lowest you’ll pay is roughly $100.00 if you want a drink.
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 (at your $2000 apt…).
Partying = $120 per month
Because the party doesn’t stop in your 30s, 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 Vancouver. 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 2-3 drinks per outing, we’re looking at $90-120 at least.
Bottle service not included. (Nor is your late-night poutine.)
Health and fitness = $75 per month
One of the major attractive features for many living in Vancouver is the healthy lifestyle the city offers. From hiking to paddle boarding in the summer, there are many ways to keep fit and at almost zero cost.
But Vancouver also offers plenty of options in terms of fitness classes. Barre, yoga, CrossFit, there are so many way to work off those beers. And according to a new report from LowestRates.ca, we spend $75 per month on fitness, on average.
Coffee (not from your home) = $40 per month
We wouldn’t be true downtown residents without supporting our local coffee shops, and there are many to choose from, as featured by our very own Alfred Drinking Coffee.
Keeping the coffee purchases minimal sans fancy sprinkly drinks, just a large coffee here, and an Americano there ($3), it adds up to about $4o monthly for the java juice.
Extras = $125 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 $125 a month.
The GRAND TOTAL
So what does this look like when it all adds up? Way too real, that’s what:
Groceries/Household Items: $315.00
Dining Out: $270.00
Health and Fitness: $75
Total: $3,194.56 per month/ $38,334.72 annually
That means you need to make a minimum annual salary of roughly $50,000 before taxes in order to bring home a monthly income of $3290 after after taxes, CPP, and EI. That will leave you with a little less than $100 a month, and you’ll need it since we haven’t even mentioned paying off debt or saving.
In other words, if you’re a single 30-something looking to live alone in downtown Vancouver, anything under $50K a year means you’re probably out of luck, and need to look elsewhere or find roommates.
But, if you stick it out and are able to stay, it is truly a great place to live… especially if you enjoy a place that fully shuts down during a snowstorm.
Ah, Vancouver – we’ll never quit you.