Update: Our 2019 version of this post is now live. Get the updated figures here.
Think mountains. Think ocean. Think excellent sushi, or rain for 10,000 years.
You must be in... Vancouver.
Back in January, we published a breakdown of how much it costs to live in Toronto, the country’s largest city. But, we’ve yet to calculate the costs of living in what is arguably Canada’s west coast-iest — at least not since last year.
And since last year, a lot has changed. 2017 and 2018 both saw governments at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels introduce a spate of rules in an effort to subdue the housing market — often the most expensive aspect of living in Vancouver. Those efforts included a speculation tax, an Airbnb tax, and an intensification of B.C.’s existing foreign buyer’s tax.
Did they work? That’s just one of the questions we hope to answer with the latest update to our “cost of living” series. Other questions we have, and which you might share, include: has affordability in Vancouver improved generally — say, in terms of how much you have to pay for food, transportation, communication, recreation, and insurance, on top of housing costs? Is living in Vancouver still financially viable for young people?
Below, we’ll give you the numbers so you can decide for yourself. For clarity’s sake, the figures below are calculated for a single person without dependents, and who doesn’t own property.
Housing - $1,927.41/month
You might be interested — if not exactly thrilled — to learn that Vancouver rental prices have outdone themselves again.
Last May, when we published the 2017 version of this story, rents in the city were going at an average of $1,696.83 per month. The average rent this year represents a 13.6% increase.
Vancouver’s 2017 and 2018 numbers are also higher than Toronto’s, which rang in at an average of $1,672.13 per month for rent this year.
One-bedroom condo: $2,129/month
One-bedroom apartment: $2,165/month
Two-bedroom, shared with a roommate: $2,976.50, or $1488.25 each
Average housing costs: $1,927.41
Phone and Internet - $142.50/month
Major service providers in B.C. (Bell, Rogers, Telus) offer 3GB of data and unlimited Canada-wide talk services for $80 to $85. Public Mobile charges $40 for a similar plan. That averages out to about $72.50.
For roughly comparable home internet plans — between 50 and 75mpbs — Rogers, Novus, and Teksavvy charge an average of $70.
The good news is that this is actually a slight decrease from last year.
Transportation - $214/month
Since last year, prices for public transportation have been pushed up a smidge — a few cents for individual passes, and a few dollars for monthly passes.
Single adult fare: $2.95 for a one zone pass. Note that you can only use a one-zone pass in the city of Vancouver; if you want to travel to adjacent cities, like Burnaby or Surrey, you’ll need to get a two zone ($4.20) or three zone ($5.70) pass, depending on how far you want to travel
Monthly pass (students): $41.00
Monthly pass (adults): $95 for one zone, $128 for two zones, $174 for three zones
Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are illegal in Vancouver, but there are still some good ol’ fashioned cabs if it’s late out, or you just don’t feel like taking a bus. A cab from the heart of downtown to a residential area on the East end of the city would cost about $20. Take that trip twice a month, and that comes to $40 before tip.
Like last year, our average takes into account a three zone monthly pass — which would let Vancouverites to ride the full length of the Expo, Millennium, and Canada lines — as well as a few cab rides.
Groceries - $214.24/month
Grocery bills will vary from person to person, but we’re just looking for an approximate number. Like last year, we’re basing our calculations on a Statistics Canada report which says that an average Canadian household (of 2.5 people) spent about $515 on groceries per month in 2016. That comes out to $206 per person.
To get that number up to 2018 standards, we’ll tack on 2% inflation for each of the intervening years. That brings the total up to $214.24.
Entertainment - $320.98/month
As with groceries, this category will vary greatly from person to person. What we’re going for is the middle ground between someone who might go out every night, and someone who may not go out at all.
Dining out: $150
This includes both meals that you’d eat in a restaurant, as well as takeout. Like last year, we polled friends in Vancouver and got answers ranging from a modest $80 per month, to “a couple hundred” from a friend who buys takeout for lunch every day, and also goes out for sit-down meals a couple times a week. Again, like last year, $150 seems like a happy middle.
Like last year, this (modest) amount factors in two bottles of wine as well as a few drinks at a bar. If you don’t drink alcohol, consider this as a figure about all the non-alcoholic drinks you buy. How much less does a Starbucks drink, bubble tea, or coffee from a third-wave coffee shop cost than a cocktail or beer? Not much!
Miscellaneous outings: $60
This could include movies, cover at a club or a show, etc.
Netflix subscription (standard): $10.99/month
Apple Music/Spotify (single person): $9.99/month
Health and Fitness - $75/month
In a health-conscious city like Vancouver, there are a huge range of options for fitness. On the higher end of things, there’s ClassPass, where a package that will get you access to eight to 12 classes at a variety of local fitness studios will cost you $105. Meanwhile, ten visits at a community centre gym will cost you about $50. That averages out to about $75 a month.
Insurance - $30/month
If you’re renting, tenant’s insurance runs at about $30 for a downtown apartment. That quote is roughly in line with last year, which was $30.
Grand total - $35,089.56 per year, or $2,924.13 a month (both before taxes)
Phone and Internet: $142.50/month
Health and Fitness: $75/month
When we tally up all the expenses, we get $2,924.13 per month, which adds up to $35,089.56 per year. Of course, because you’ll pay income tax on your earnings, you need to have a salary of at least $41,065 to afford a monthly expense like that.
Remember: this doesn’t cover any debt payments you’ll have to make, like credit card or student loans. It also doesn’t cover variable expenses like savings contributions, toiletries, clothing, pet costs, or auto or life insurance.
If you want to abide by the rule which says that you should save at least 20% of your income, you’ll have to make $49,278 annually.