How to Live Frugally in B.C.

As one of the most beautiful provinces to live in, British Columbia is also one of the most expensive provinces to live in. This is skewed of course by notoriously expensive Vancouver.

Vancouver is expensive. There’s no doubt about that. According to a 2006 census cited by, more than 29% of British Columbians are spending more than 30% of their income on shelter costs such as mortgage payments, rent, utilities, and property taxes.

So how does one live frugally in Vancouver and manage to save money?

Here are a few of the secret (or not so secret) reasons on how to live frugally in Vancouver:

Do More, Spend Less

Vancouver is full of ridiculously health conscious and fit (not to mention good-looking) people. People are busy spending time toning their bodies, looking good, burning fat, and putting their hands at heart-centre.

When you’re busy working on yourself and taking care of yourself, you spend less time filling the void with consumerism and materialism.

Although the cost of gym memberships ($40 average), yoga memberships ($130 average) and Grouse grind memberships ($99 for the season) can be costly on a monthly basis, these unlimited monthly passes may in fact be the saving grace to prevent people from spending money on shopping for the sake of shopping.

Cheap Food

Although Vancouver has some world-class expensive restaurants, Vancouver is also a city where you can get some really decent (and cheap) meals. For example, you can get a meal for $5.95 or a piping hot bowl of fresh Vietnamese noodle soup for $6.50.

Living Fabulously and Frugal in Vancouver is a popular website that shares all the cheap events and food options and promotions available in Vancouver.

Finally, a lot of people in Vancouver use Groupon or other social deal sites for many things, especially meals. Although the daily deal craze has finally died down, many people still use these deals to save on entertainment and eating out costs.

Room Mates and Tenants

In Vancouver proper (and even in the outlying suburbs) most people share their space. Basement suites with tenants or room mates renting a room to help out with the mortgage, and of course room mates to help out with the sharing the rent. Not to mention the laneway houses in Vancouver to maximize housing density and increase affordability in Vancouver.

An average room for rent in Vancouver starts from around $350 to $500. Renting out a basement suite can add an extra $900 to $1350 (I’ve also seen $1500+) depending on where your home is.

No Cars

Since Vancouver is pretty densely populated, most people commute. And not by car. Many people in Vancouver (remember, this is the uber healthy city we’re talking about) commute by bicycle. With a vast network of cycling paths and even dedicated lanes on bridges and on larger streets, cycling has become a very popular (and free) way to commute to work or school.

The only downside is the initial cost of the fancy commuter or road bike, but once this is out of the way, the only downside thereafter is well, really nothing (unless someone steals your bike and sells it for $50 on Craigslist). Because exercise and free commuting is win-win.

For trips that necessitate a car, there are many car co-op programs that are proliferating throughout the city. Some of these are location independent (meaning you don’t have to retrieve the car from a designated spot) and you can locate one near you because they have GPS within. Some of these only cost $0.38 a minute (and you don’t have to return the car to the original location). Yes, this makes it cheaper than taking the bus if you’re going a short distance within the city.

Not having a car can save hundreds from your monthly commuting costs.

Vancouver is a No Fun City

Vancouver is notorious for being a “no fun” city because it is difficult to meet people. Streets are usually quiet at night in down town  It is difficult to meet people because most people socialize at house parties. Whether this is because Vancouver’s shelter costs are expensive so people try to keep entertainment costs down… or whether it is because people want to show off their homes is unbeknownst to me.

Saving money on “night out on the town” entertainment costs on a weekly basis can save an individual $200+ a month.

These are just some of the ways that I’ve noticed in myself and other Vancouverites. Perhaps high housing costs have shaped the frugal lifestyles individuals living in Vancouver. Whatever it is, many people who live in Vancouver love Vancouver and don’t want to leave it, despite exorbitant cost of housing.

Where else can you take a stroll on the beach (albeit a cold stroll) and go snowboarding or skiing, all in the same afternoon?

About the Author: Clare is a 20-something who lives in beautiful (but expensive) British Columbia and has been working on her frugal living skills and fighting lifestyle inflation. She works to expand her DIY investment knowledge and hopes to enjoy financial independence one day. She enjoys reading personal finance books, freelance writing, but not so much arithmetic.

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6 years ago

Do you have to pay taxes on what a roommate pays for their rent in BC?

7 years ago

After reading the following article, I concretely refer back to my #1 Fugal Tip: Move to a Different Province(/Country).

BC Hydro forecasts ‘massive’ rate increases

+26% by 2016 = 8.6%/yr
+8% in 2017
+41% total by 2020 = +6.8%/yr
+57% total by 2024 = +5.7%/yr

Look as though the next decade will be spent paying for the last decade of great Liberal corruption.

(And thank god for all that government reported deflation in B.C.!)

7 years ago

Top 10 most expensive cities to buy gas in North America are all in B.C.
(thank goodness for that bogus B.C. carbon tax!)

Frugal Tip #27: Buy your gas outside the Lower Mainland.

7 years ago

Oh, SST, always jumping the gun!

Expect hydro rate increases, B.C. energy minister says:

“Energy Minister…warned British Columbians to brace for a new round of hikes.”

“New Democratic Party energy critic John Horgan said he believes significant new rate hikes are now inevitable. “I think we’re looking at 10 per cent rate increases this year, and perhaps next year as well.” ”

So much for BC deflation. :(

7 years ago

How to live frugally in B.C.?

Simple — just live in B.C.!

With its buck-the-trend deflationary trend (-0.7%), consumers will soon be enjoying lower prices across the board.

That yummy bowl of noodle soup is now a nickel cheaper!

(And I hope Guest Blogger reduced her rental suite accordingly.)

7 years ago

re: #15 — “Looking for tips for a million dollar B.C. journey?
*Ten years ago I would have said get in bed with any Liberal you can. However, that ship sunk spectacularly.”

Wow. Clark managed to raise Campbell’s Titanic.
Thus, the Liberal road-to-riches is still a viable option to living frugally in B.C. First order of business:

B.C. Liberal Pay Raises:

Addendum: I believe they have reigned in the raises, somewhat, but only after massive outcry from every corner. Better get it while you can!

(As a side note, the B.C. debt has increased 8.5% annually over the last 10 years or so (but I thought B.C. inflation was negative!?!?), luckily the government has also increased my pay by exactly the same scale.)

8 years ago

B.C. Frugal Tip #41: Don’t get sick…at least not in the GVA.

5 Metro Vancouver hospitals rate lowest in Canada

8 years ago

B.C. Frugal Tip #9: show that government crony-capitalism money-grab programs are a sham…

…and get a 5-year tax “break” from the Hindenburg-esque politicos !

Oh, B.C., why are you such a joke.

8 years ago

@Sean — but wait!!! Now you can live frugally in a brand-new garage-sized “house”!

450 sqft for only $200,000!
(or $444/sqft for those by-unit lovers)

Ah, yes…the standard of living frugal in B.C. just keeps on getting better and better!

Frugal tip #103: sell your car and move into the garage.

(Or just move out of the Lower Mainland et al area.)

8 years ago

In response to SST’s Frugal Tip#86…. you are dead on. I’ve been here for two years now and there is no getting ahead in this province. Saving is near impossible, rent will suck you dry unless you want to live out in the absolute ghetto, stores like Urban Fare with their $9 pasta sauce or $8 cereal. This place is just insane. Then we keep hearing reports claiming ‘Canadians are racking up credit card debt and we don’t know why’ or ‘New study shows Canadians are unhappy with their economic status’ and so on.

Probably going to need to sell the car soon to pay taxes in April…. yay Canada.