Which City Was the Most Expensive to Live in?

victoria toronto port moody

First, I have to say thank you to everyone who commented on Monday’s post. Not only was it great to see so many first-time commenters share a few words, but it was also cool to see commenters interact with one another. Seriously, you guys are the best.

As promised, my numbers are here to stay! And now that I’ve lived in the ‘burbs of Greater Vancouver for a while, I decided it was finally time to crunch some numbers and see what it’s really costing me to live over here. See, if you’ve heard that Vancouver is the most expensive city in North America to live in, I can look at the numbers and see how that is true. But that’s based on the median annual salary vs. the median house price – and I don’t own a home. I do, however, rent a condo that somebody else owns… and it ain’t cheap.

Since I’ve lived in three separate cities over the last 18 months, I decided to go one step further and calculate what I paid (or am currently paying) to live in each of them. I went through all of my old budgets to find ones that looked fairly normal (i.e. I wasn’t travelling for half the month), then added up all the numbers and found the averages for all of my basic living costs. If you look at the chart below, you can see that Greater Vancouver is proving to be the most expensive city… but the lifestyle in all of them is what I want to look at.

Victoria: $1,630/m

Let’s start with Victoria. Back at home, I was living in a decent apartment building; it wasn’t fancy, and there were no amenities, but it was clean, quiet and had in-suite laundry. I drove a lot in that city, probably because I had quadruple the number of friends there than I do here, so my gas budget was fairly high. However, my car insurance was dirt cheap! (Oh, how I miss that…) My grocery budget was highest there, which I actually have no explanation for, other than that sometimes I had friends over for dinner. Finally, my restaurant budget was actually at its lowest there… probably because I invited people over, haha.

Toronto: $1,767/m* (+$137/m or +$1,644/yr)

I made exactly 3 assumptions for my Toronto budget, because I wanted to assume what a monthly budget might have looked like had I stayed in the city, moved out of Roomie’s and gotten a place of my own. So, for all the apartments I viewed online and in-person, it’s safe for me to assume my rent would’ve been at least $1,200/m. For that price, I highly doubt the building would’ve come with a gym, so I would’ve eventually joined one (and was quoted this amount by GoodLife). And then I can only assume tenant insurance would’ve been cheaper there than it is here, because you don’t need earthquake coverage in Ontario.

As for the rest, these are all actual averages of what I spent while living in Toronto. The first thing I notice when I look at these numbers is how much my choices around eating changed while I was there. Dining out is definitely “a thing” in Toronto. I also walked by a Starbucks on my way to work each morning, which didn’t help my budget. Oh, and I lied: I made 4 assumptions about what it would’ve cost me to stay in Toronto – the 4th one being that I never would have brought my car out there. I was once quoted $175/m for car insurance, and it would’ve been anywhere from $60-150/m to rent a parking space. Nooo thank you.

Greater Vancouver: $1,811/m (+$181/m or +$2,172/yr)

Finally, Greater Vancouver – or Port Moody, to be exact. The first thing that jumps out at me here is that my inflated Toronto restaurant budget hasn’t really budged! However, a good chunk of that just comes with the territory of living in a new city, meeting new people and wanting to try new restaurants with those people. But still! And the second thing – which I’ve been aware of since the minute I moved here – is that my car insurance is basically double what it was in Victoria. So, I’m driving a little less, but I’m paying a whole lot more to have my car here. Darn bigger cities with their increased car accident and crime rates.

Now, while it looks like living in Greater Vancouver isn’t that much more expensive than living in Victoria or Toronto, you’re right – it’s not. But that’s because I live in Port Moody, which is a 30-minute drive outside of the downtown core. Just for fun, I spent a little time on Craigslist the other night, to see if I could find out how much a condo like the one I’m in now would be downtown… I’d be paying closer to $1,600/m to live down there – plus parking! (And my current kitchen is so much nicer than that.) Or there’s this place for even more. I’ll take my basically brand new condo and life by the water in Port Moody over that any day…

What’s the most expensive city (or apartment) you’ve ever lived in?