Updated on May 6, 2019: This story has been updated with revised transportation costs.
By now, Torontonians are used to being asked by people who don’t live here how on earth they can afford to live in such an expensive city. When pressed, it’s hard to come up with an explanation. Because the truth is, it just keeps getting more expensive.
Our annual cost of living series aims to track what a young person needs to make to afford to live in this city. And year-over-year, the salary needed to make ends meet has increased.
Last January, we published our second breakdown of what it costs a young person to live in Toronto. We took the average costs of housing, transportation, groceries, phone and internet bills, as well as entertainment, and landed at $2,740.48/month, which works out to $32,885 annually.
This year, the monthly cost has jumped by almost $475.
It’s important to remember that these costs are tailored for an employed single person without dependents who doesn’t own property. That makes this is an average estimate. It’s very possible people can live here for much cheaper while others may need much more to fund the sort of lifestyle they expect.
Housing - $2,079.75/month
This is the category almost solely responsible for the increase in living costs when compared to last year, when the average cost of housing was just $1,672.13 (ah, simpler days...). From 2018 to 2019, we’re looking at a $407 monthly jump in costs.
It’s a discouraging development, but hardly a surprising one. Rents in Toronto have been doing nothing but rising. By October 2018, some reports had the average cost of renting a one-bedroom condo pegged at $2,065.
To find the average monthly rent for 2019, we consulted the data over at Rentboard.ca and calculated an average based on the potential different living situations for young people, such as a studio apartment or splitting a two-bedroom unit within a roommate.
One-bedroom condo = $2,212
One-bedroom apartment = $1,987
Bachelor/studio apartment = $2,082.50
Two-bedroom condo (shared with a roommate) = $4,075, or $2,037.50 each
Phone/Internet - $156.98/month
Costs in this category went up, likely because the base package all of the major cell phone players are promoting right now is a 1GB + 3GB bonus data offer. And, as any Torontonian with a smart phone knows, data doesn’t come cheap.
Bell, Rogers, and Telus are offering the 4GB data plan, along with unlimited local calling and unlimited text. Plan fees across these three companies were $100/month, $85/month, and $85/month, respectively. That gave us an average of $90/month.
For high-speed home internet, we looked at plans that offer anywhere from 15-750 mbps download speed, and anywhere from 1-10 mbps upload speed. Bell ($84.95/month), Rogers ($69.99/month), and Teksavvy ($46/month) were the three big Toronto players in this department.
Transportation - $254.10/month
With the TTC Metropass now a thing of the past, transit has actually gotten more affordable. (Though I think I speak for every Torontonian when I say it’ll still be a hard pass on the “retro” Metropass t-shirts the TTC is trying to sell.)
The last-ever monthly December 2018 TTC Adult Metropass cost $146.25. And, as we all know from the painful transition over the last couple of years, Presto took its place. A 12-month Presto pass is about $10 a month cheaper than its Metropass predecessor, coming in at $134.10.
Accounting for the 10-cent TTC fare hike that will come into effect April 1, here’s our cost breakdown:
Single adult fare (cash): $3.25 (this fare isn’t affected by the hike)
Single adult fare (tokens or Presto): $3.10
Monthly pass (students): $116.85
Monthly pass (adults): $146.35
12-month Presto Pass (adults): $134.10
12-month Presto (students): $107.10
Cabs/Uber/Lyfts: Sometimes, the TTC just doesn’t cut it. A few late nights out a month might see you getting home in a cab, Uber, or Lyft instead. We've priced out one Uber ride from Midtown to the Yonge and Dundas area to $30 round trip. Since there are those who never take Uber, and those who take it often, we're going to go with a sweet spot of four trips a month for our calculations. It should be noted, this is a change over last year, when we priced in only one Uber trip.
Using the 12-month Adult Presto Pass ($134.10) as our TTC option, in addition to four $30 Uber trips a month for a total of $120, our average monthly transportation cost works out to $254.10.
12-month Adult Presto Pass: $134.10
Uber trips x 4: $120
Groceries - $283.60/month
Nothing’s changed from last year in this category.
According to the City of Toronto’s Nutritious Food Basket food cost calculator, a single male between the ages of 19 and 30 will spend, on average, $319.87 a month on groceries. Women in the same age bracket average $247.33 a month. These numbers could of course be different for you, depending on where and how you grocery shop.
Costs are different for families, too. According to a Canada Food Price Report out of the University of Guelph, the average Canadian family is expected to spend around $12,157 on food this year. That works out to $1,013 a month, and is a $411 annual increase from 2018.
Entertainment - $445.98/month
Costs in this department jumped almost $100. That’s in part because this year we decided to err on the side of higher spending on dining out, based on a limited sample size of friends’ food-spending habits. Millennials aren’t the best when it comes to saving money on food, largely thanks to the convenience of food apps. You’ll notice we upped the dining out amount for those who buy their lunch instead of bringing it to work, for instance.
All of us Netflix bingers were hit with a higher subscription fee in January, too, when the monthly cost for a standard plan (2 screens at a time + HD) jumped from $10.99 to $13.99.
Dining out: $282/month
Buying lunch three times a week: $10 each time, $120/month
Getting takeout for dinner three times a month: $20 each time, $60/month
Going out for dinner once a month: $70/month
Buying a latte twice a week: $4 each time, $32/month
Going out for drinks with friends twice a month: $20 each time, $40/month
Having drinks at home/friends’ house once a month: $50/month
Miscellaneous Outings (movies, events, shows, dates, etc): $50/month
Netflix subscription: $13.99
Apple Music/Spotify subscription: $9.99/month
Health and Fitness - $63.75/month
Fitness doesn’t come cheap in Toronto. And with specialized studios becoming more and more popular, fitness memberships in the $275-a-month range for things like reformer pilates aren’t unusual to see anymore.
But those kinds of prices are, quite frankly, impossible for many of Toronto’s young folks, which is why we decided against including them in our average cost. Instead, we’ve taken a semi-affordable yoga membership of $115/month, and gym memberships ranging from $10/month at Planet Fitness to $60 at the YMCA to $70 a month at GoodLife. That landed us with an average cost of $63.75, which is about $10 cheaper than last year’s number.
Insurance - $57.28/month
Owning a car in Toronto is more of a luxury rather than a necessity, so we haven’t included auto insurance in our breakdown. We have, however, taken tenant insurance into account for renters, since many Toronto landlords require it.
Using the LowestRates.ca renters insurance quoter, we averaged the cost of renters insurance for a 750-square foot apartment in west, east, central and north Toronto.
The average cost of renters insurance (including an option for flood coverage) for a 750-square-foot apartment in Toronto is $57.28/month.
Not including flood coverage: $51.60/month.
Grand Total - $3,341.44/month, or $40,097.28 annually
Phone and Internet: $156.98
Our grand total comes to $3,341.44/month — that’s $600.96 a month more than last year.
Similar to last year, 2019’s cost of living increase can almost entirely be traced back to rising rents. But we also have to account for the tendency for young people to splurge more on dining out and ordering in.
This year’s total cost of living doesn’t take into account student loans or other debt repayments; savings contributions; toiletries; pet costs; clothing; auto insurance; or other miscellaneous fees.
Based on the current tax rate in Canada and Ontario, you’ll need to be making at least $51,270 before tax ($40,097.28 after tax) to make ends meet in Toronto. If that’s what you earn, you’ll literally be living pay cheque to pay cheque because you’ll have no money left over every month. Fun times.
To make things even more challenging, experts recommend saving 20% of your net pay. So, using the above-example, if you want to save 20% of your take-home income and still make enough to meet your monthly expenses, you’ll actually need to net $48,116.74 a year. That means you need to earn $64,895 annually before tax.