Unless you’ve been living under a rock — which, now that I think about it, may be the only affordable place left in the city — you’ll know that Toronto is expensive.
The city’s insane housing market is driving up rental prices, while simultaneously crushing the dreams of would-be homeowners. And, to add insult to injury, the inflation rate in Canada is rising at a faster rate than incomes are.
So how much exactly does it cost to live in Toronto in 2017?
The answer is a little tricky and depends on a lot of variables. But I wanted to figure out what the average person in my situation — a 20-something, university educated woman with a full-time job — can expect to pay in any given month. I dug deep into Statistics Canada reports, polled dozens of friends and came out with a rough calculation of what it costs to live here.
Here’s my breakdown. I end it with a rough number of what you need to make to be able to afford the basics in Toronto.
Housing - $1,334.75/month
This is going to be your biggest expense. Depending on where, with whom and how you choose to live, these costs will vary. One thing, however, is for sure — it won’t be cheap.
Here’s a look at what the average price of a variety of living situations in Toronto are, according to RentBoard.ca:
One bedroom condo: $1,769/month
One bedroom apartment: $1,479/month
Bachelor/studio apartment: $1,156/month
Two bedroom, shared with a roommate: $1,870/month, or $935/month each
Average housing costs: $1,334.75/month
Phone and Internet - $140/month
You’d be hard pressed to find many young people living in the city without an internet connection or smartphone, so we have to factor those costs in, too. And surprise! They’re not cheap. Depending on what plan you choose, the costs will vary.
If you’re on a standard plan from a provider like TekSavvy you’ll be paying $34.95/month, plus tax. If you go with Rogers, you’ll be paying $69.99/month, plus tax. Meaning that, on average, it’ll be around $60/month for Internet.
Phone plans are much the same — they’ll vary greatly depending on what your plan includes. Most young people have a plan that includes data, which itself is pricey. If you have a data plan with Telus, Bell, Rogers or any of the other big players, you’re likely paying at least $80/month, plus tax. If you’re with a smaller carrier like Freedom Mobile, it will cost you around $45/month, plus tax.
Transportation - $176.25/month
While the amount spent on transportation will vary depending on a variety of factors (whether you walk or bike, your proximity to work, whether you work from home, etc.), many city dwellers will find themselves taking public transit.
A single ride is $3.25 if you pay cash, or $3.00 with tokens or a Presto card. If you take the TTC to and from work on a weekly basis, it’ll cost you about $30 a week. However, if you consider that most people will take the TTC more than just to and from work, it makes sense for them to purchase a monthly pass — which goes for $146.25/month.
Even with a transit pass, some of us will still end up taking a cab or an Uber ride every once in awhile. If you take an Uber from downtown to midtown twice throughout the month, that’ll run you about $15 each time. If you go any further, or if you’re stuck getting an Uber during surge pricing — it’ll cost you even more.
Monthly transit pass: $146.25/month
Groceries - $300/month
According to the ‘Nutritious Food Basket’ food cost calculator on the City of Toronto website, the monthly cost of healthy groceries in Toronto for a single young professional is, on average, around $300 per month. Obviously, this will vary depending on where you shop, how much you eat as well as how often you go out for food or get takeout.
Entertainment - $324/month
This section is where it can be a bit hard to predict, because everyone’s habits are different. I polled my Twitter followers to see what they spend, and here’s what I found out:
If you live in #Toronto — how much do you spend in a typical month on dining out, drinking and entertainment combined? (Not groceries)— Moe Genore (@moegenore) March 20, 2017
Based on that, I came up with a more detailed breakdown of what the average millennial might spend each month on eating, drinking and socializing.
Dining Out: $154/month
Buying lunch once a week: $10 each time, $40/month
Getting takeout for dinner twice a month: $20 each time, $40/month
Going out for dinner once a month: $50/month
Buying coffee twice a week: $3 each time, $24/month
Going out for drinks with friends twice a month: $25 each time, $50/month
Having drinks at home/friends house once a week: $50/month
Nights out (movies, events, shows, dates, etc.): $70/month
Going to the movies once a month: $20
Miscellaneous outings: $50
Health and Fitness - $75/month
This is another area where it can get tricky, because everyone prioritizes fitness differently. Some people may not spend anything on their fitness routines, whereas others may make it a priority.
The cost of the average gym membership if you go somewhere on the cheaper end of the spectrum (like Goodlife or the YMCA) will run you around $60/month; whereas if you prefer a higher end gym (ahem, Equinox) or a membership to a yoga or barre studio, it could run you between $100-$200 each month. So, averaging those out, we’ll say a young person is likely to spend about $75/month on health and fitness.
Gym Membership: $75/month
Grand Total - $2,350/month
Phone and Internet: $140/month
Health and Fitness: $75/month
This breakdown doesn’t include the cost of clothing or personal products, fees for financial products, or, perhaps the largest expense that most young people are dealing with: debt repayment. Whether that be student loans or credit card debt, this is a biggie for many young people. This also doesn’t take into account any savings in the form of an emergency fund, RRSP contributions or any additional investments.
So, I did a little bit more math, and based on the current tax rate in Canada — you’ll need to be making at least $35,000 a year to make ends meet as a single young person in Toronto. That's bad news for anyone making minimum wage or close to it — at the current $11.40 an hour, minimum wage only nets you $23,712 a year.
Also, if you want any chance at paying down debt, saving for retirement or having any sort of emergency fund, you'll need to add at least a few thousand dollars to our figure.