Apr 012014
 

Move to Vancouver to Enjoy a Low Cost of Living

Sometimes it may feel like we’re constantly being gouged by the world around us. 😕

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But if we adapt to our surroundings we should be able to live the lifestyle we want on a relatively modest income 🙂 Luckily I live in what is arguably one of the most affordable cities in the world – Vancouver, B.C. Canada. 😀 I currently make more than $3,000 a month from my 2 jobs combined, but if we exclude my consumer/investment debt-related expenses for the moment, my total cost of living each month is less than $1,500. Here’s the cost of living breakdown.

Housing related $800
Food $150
Hydro+Internet+phone $100
Transportation $150
Miscellaneous $200

This budget doesn’t feel restrictive because it’s so darn cheap to live here 😀

I don’t even try to be thrifty. Things are just naturally cheap in Vancouver. As I’ll explain below, there is probably no other major city in Canada or the U.S. where I can buy the same degree of security, freedom, opportunity, and general quality of life as I have today, for just $1,500 a month.

Affordable Housing

Trying to pay for a roof over our heads in large cities like San Francisco or New York City (where the average rent is over $3,000/month.) can be financially challenging. 😕 But not in Vancouver! With interest rates so low my monthly mortgage payment on my 2 bedroom apartment is only about $800/month. 😀

There are lots of cheap options for renters too. Here’s a one bedroom apartment recently listed. It’s only $875 per month . It’s located near public transportation, restaurants, and other services, as indicated by the high Walk Score. Statistics Canada suggests that living in a high walk score neighborhood promotes a healthier lifestyle and decreases the chance of obesity.14-04-marpoleproperty vancouver affordable city

Here is another 1 bedroom suite I found on craigslist recently for just $675 a month.

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I hear 1 bedroom suites in Calgary and Toronto (outside city centers) normally rent between $1,000 to $1,200 a month. Phew. I’m glad I don’t live in those expensive cities.

Cheap Food

Eating well can be quite costly. But food is so cheap in Vancouver. I can usually buy 2 full bags of fresh fruit and vegetables for about $10 at discount produce markets. I’ve posted receipts for proof.

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I can buy staples like milk, bread, and eggs at the local Walmart for $7.50. I think that’s very reasonable. (click image to enlarge)

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Restaurant food and other prepared dishes are cheap too. 🙂 At Yamato Sushi in downtown for example, I can get a 22 piece assorted sushi combo including soup for just $5.95! How are they still in business? 😯

Food courts and bakeries across Metro Vancouver usually drop their prices a lot before they close for the day. 🙂 Often $4 can buy 2 full take-out boxes of food that can last me a full day lol.

14-04-foodcourt Vancouver most affordable city

Supermarkets like Loblaws and its franchises (Superstore, t&t, etc)  will often mark down their pre-packaged foods in stages starting in the late afternoon. Each hour or so lower priced stickers would be applied.

14-04-cheapdinner Vancouver most affordable city

This is the perfect opportunity for busy people like myself, who may not always have time to cook, to conveniently grab something cheap and easy for dinner. 🙂

Safeway will sometimes have special deals like the following which includes a pizza, ice cream, and soda, all for just $6.

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If you want to be really frugal, I’ve done some research that suggests it’s even possible to survive in Vancouver without spending any money on food whatsoever. This can be done by taking advantage of free food events that happen every day around the city.

 

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Mar 112013
 

I’m sure many have heard that divorce can be financially devastating for a couple. But in a country that has over a billion people, couples are divorcing like their future retirement plans depend on it. And in a way, it’s true. China is home to some of the most unaffordable real estate in the world. If you think housing in Vancouver is expensive for a middle class family, think about what life must be like for a middle class family living in Beijing (O_o)

13_03_chinapropertyprice, divorce to save money

In order to curb high housing prices the Communist Party of China announced a new tax on property sales last week. It states that owners who sell their non primary residence have to pay 20% tax on any profit they make. To take advantage of a tax loop hole many couples in the country are getting divorced and taking one property each. This way neither of them will have a second home anymore, and neither of their properties will be subject to the new tax. Registration centers in various Chinese districts are reporting thirty to a hundred percent more divorces than normal. Furthermore, the number of people applying for proof that they are now single has gone up multiple folds.

meanwhile in china, divorce to save moneyA 700 sq-ft apartment in a large city goes for about $400,000 USD. But just five years ago the same apartment was only worth about half as much. According to the IMF the average person in China only makes about $6600 USD a year.  Imagine if a couple bought a property 5 years ago and can sell it today for a $200,000 profit, wow! If used wisely this windfall could probably fund someone’s entire retirement because relative to income levels that’s the equivalent of someone in Canada or the US winning the lottery!  What about any lasting distress or awkwardness for the family after the divorce? Not to worry because The Shanghai Daily mentioned that these same couples were remarrying as soon as one of their homes were sold tax free 🙂 Might be tough for couples with children to explain what a “tax divorce” is to their kids though 😀

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Random Useless Fact: 

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Feb 152013
 

In North America there is no shortage of complaints about the cost to drive a car and gasoline prices. But relative to the rest of the world like England where they have loony petrol taxes, or most of Europe, our prices are quite affordable (゜∀゜) A recent Bloomberg article compares the relative cost of gasoline prices in 60 different countries from most expensive to least. The countries were ranked in 2 different ways.

Global gasoline prices

The first way is purely based on cost, so how much in US dollars to buy one gallon of gas (or 3.78 liters for those of us outside of the States :D) By this measurement Turkey has the most expensive gas in the study at $9.89 per gallon. Norway is number 2 at $9.63, still very expensive. Near the bottom of the rankings we have Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and in last place, the least expensive country, is Venezuela at just $0.06 haha :O)

The second way is based on affordability, so what portion of an average person’s daily income can pay for a gallon of unleaded gas, starting from most unaffordable. On top of the list is Pakistan where the average daily income is just $3.55. Since gas costs about $4 per gallon there, the average person would have to work more than a whole day to afford one gallon of gas! Affordability wise, that’s the equivalent of Canadians or Americans paying well over $100 per gallon at the pumps. Yeah.. no thank you t(°_°t) India which has a population of 1.24 billion came in close at number 2 on the list. Below I’ve just gone and grabbed the stats for 3 countries out of 60. The lower the ranking the more affordable gas is.

United Kingdom
Price per gallon of gasoline: UK $8.06
Rank by most expensive: 13
Rank by affordability: 39

Canada
Price per gallon of gasoline: $4.76
Rank by most expensive: 44
Rank by affordability: 53

United States
Price per gallon of gasoline: $3.29
Rank by most expensive: 51
Rank by affordability: 56

So when you think about it, we’re quite lucky in North America here. Canadians only spend 3.3% of what we earn in a day to buy a gallon of gas. Meanwhile you have countries like China, which requires 26%. Not to mention India and Pakistan, which is even worse at 110%. Next time I fill up my car I’m going to think wow so cheap! If you live in the US, even better for you 🙂

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 Top Canadian Finance Blogs

best blogs poll and global gasoline prices

I’m really stoked that fellow blogger Jeremy over at ModestMoney.com has nominated my blog again in his poll for the best finance blog in Canada this year. If you have a spare minute please go and vote for your favorite personal finance blogs  😀

Oct 092012
 

Affordability doesn’t always mean cheap vs expensive prices. If a gallon of milk is cheaper in the US than in Canada that doesn’t automatically mean milk is more affordable for Americans, although in this case that does seem to be true (>_<) What I mean though is that affordability can also refer to our purchasing power in a local economy. For example, an affordable beer index. Below is the a chart from The Economist showing how many minutes a person who makes the median income in a country has to work to afford half a liter of beer, which is roughly 1 pint I believe.

Known for its high income earners and low cost to do business, the most affordable place to make a living and drink beer is in the US. On the other hand beer is more pricey in Britain and Japan, and not surprisingly they are also less affordable for people to buy. But of course affordability isn’t just about the price. For example, according to the IMF, CIA, and the World Bank, people in Romania and China make just a fraction of what Canadians make, (about $5000 to $9,000 a year if converted all to US dollars), yet they don’t have to work as long as us to earn themselves a drink because their beer is so cheap. That means if you lived in those countries and worked an average job, you would be able to do more with your salary than doing a similar average job in Canada. Well at least you can do more drinking (^_-)

So if you live in a country near the bottom of the chart then you should be thankful that you can enjoy one of life’s simpler luxuries without breaking the bank. But if you live in a country above that average line, then you might want to think twice about going out for a drink next time because depending on your priorities, you may find a better use for your hard earned money elsewhere.

I’ve always thought that alcohol in Canada was expensive and over priced. But I’ve made the mistake of only comparing Canada to the US. Now I’ve realized that we don’t have it all that bad :0) I don’t feel upset anymore about paying more money for beer because I know it’s still more affordable than what most people in the world have to deal with.