Update: Our 2018 version of this post is now live. Read it here.
Ah, Vancouver. Clean ocean air, scenic mountains, sustainable living.
Vancouver often ranks as among the best cities to live — earlier this year, consulting firm Mercer said Vancouver has the world's fifth-best quality of life, making it the only non-European metropolis to crack the top 10.
But the allure also makes Vancouver expensive for residents. Buying a single-detached house in the city will set you back $1.52 million, while even the average condo now costs $554,100.
It doesn’t help that incomes in the city haven’t kept up with the cost of living. Vancouver has the second-highest home servicing costs in Canada, and yet it has the second-lowest average income for a two-person household in Canada: $72,291.
Alright, so you’ve been briefed on the fact that living in Vancouver isn't cheap. But you’re attracted by the good stuff — the expansive bicycle networks, the access to world-class skiing and hiking, the delicious food.
So, now you need to know: how much money do you have to make to live there? We break it down below.
Housing - $1,696.83/month
Vancouver’s astronomical housing prices have been making the news for the better part of a decade. It’s no surprise that many young people find it immensely difficult to afford to live there. As you can see, even renting a modest one-bedroom will hit your wallet hard. The below data has been pulled from RentBoard.ca.
One-bedroom condo: $1,643/month
One-bedroom apartment: $1,981/month
Two-bedroom, shared with a roommate: $2,933, or $1,466.50 each
Average housing costs: $1,696.83
Phone and Internet - $144/month
Let's start by calculating how much that smartphone costs you. If you look at mobile data plans in B.C., they run anywhere from $20 for a basic package to $185 for an unlimited plan. To keep it simple, we took the pricing of a popular data plan — a 4 gigabyte package — and averaged it from the big telecom providers in the province. Then, we added on a standard 300-minute package, and came out to an average after-tax cost of $83.
For internet, we looked at four big providers in B.C.: Shaw, Telus, Novus and TekSavvy. We categorized the packages that are next-best from the basic offering and averaged it. We got a price of $61, after-tax.
Transportation - $210/month
The good news is that it’s easy to get around in downtown Vancouver thanks to the wide coverage of the city’s light-rail system, the Skytrain. Buses, the West Coast Express, and the SeaBus ferry also all help connect the city.
Vancouver uses a fare-zone system, meaning how much you pay depends on how many zones you want to cross through. To simplify, this calculation will include the three-zone fare pass.
That comes out to $170 a month for an adult. Of course, if you don’t have a car, you’ll want to occasionally take a cab. Uber and all ride-sharing apps are currently illegal in Vancouver. We used the following cab fare calculator to average out what a few five-kilometer cab rides would come out to every month. We got about $40.
Groceries - $212.36/month
Grocery bills differ for everyone, but Statistics Canada helps us paint a picture of what it costs to buy food in Canada every month. According to StatsCan, the average family of 2.5 people spends $510.50 on groceries in a month. If you run the math, that comes out to $204.20 every month per person.
Now, that figure is based on 2015 numbers. If you further add 2% inflation every year, you come out to $212.36.
Entertainment - $330/month
This one will have more flex room than the others. If you’re looking to eat out every night and spend the weekends seeing everything Vancouver has to offer, the budget we’re going to lay out below won’t be realistic. What we’ve tried to do is calculate numbers based on what the average person in the city spends every month.
Dining out: $150/month
According to Statistics Canada, the average family of 2.5 spends $208.50 a month on eating out at restaurants. Now, the simple thing to do here would be to divide the number to get to what one person spends. But obviously, if you’re single, you’re probably eating out a bit more than a family is.
We polled some friends in Vancouver and got amounts ranging from $100 to $300 a month on dining out. We think settling on $150 is a happy middle.
This, of course, will be $0 if you don’t drink at all. But for many young people, having friends over for drinks or going out with co-workers on a Friday is a core part of socializing. This conservative amount factors in two wine bottles a month to entertain at home, and $75 a month on going out and drinking with friends.
Misc. entertainment (movies, events, shows, dates etc.): $70/month
Like staying in? Then you probably want a Netflix account to watch movies — and the standard package will set you back $9.99 a month. Let’s also count the occasional trip to an actual movie theater, where a ticket will run you $15. Finally, add in an extra $45 for any coffee meetings, visits to the art gallery, seeing your favourite band in concert or any other one-off events you might have in any given month.
Health and Fitness - $70/month
Vancouver is known for fitness, so there's no shortage of options in this department. You can get something like the 10-class package from ClassPass, which gives you access to a variety of fitness studios in Vancouver, for $95 a month.
Or, you could just get a gym membership for cheaper. Options like GoodLife Fitness or a local YMCA can be as cheap as $45 a month. Doing some averaging out, we settled at $70 a month.
Insurance - $31/month
If you own a condo or a house, you’ll be paying more for insurance. But if you’re renting, according to our insurance quoter, the average renter's insurance in Vancouver for a downtown apartment is $31 a month.
Grand total: $36,828 per year (before tax), or $3,069 a month
Phone and Internet: $144/month
Health and Fitness: $70/month
Want to live comfortably in Vancouver? Then you need to take in $36,828 a year, or $3,069 a month (this is the amount you need to make before income taxes are added).
There’s one caveat here. This does not include saving every month or servicing any debt such as student loans. For those who take budgeting seriously, you want to adhere to the 50/20/30 rule — that is, 50% of your income goes toward housing and necessities such as food, 30% is for miscellaneous spending such as entertainment and the remaining 20% should be saved.
So, if you save 20% of your income, tack on another $7,365.60 to our calculations. Meaning if you want to have a comfortable life in Vancouver and actually be able to save for retirement, right now you need to be making at least $44,193 before taxes.
Want to chime in? Disagree with our numbers? Comment on Facebook and let us know what you think.