The Poor Vancouverite (Part 3) – saving money in Canada & while travelling

For my last part on saving money in preparation to travel or while travelling, I will focus on non-financial bills. That is, how to save money in Canada (Vancouver) while owning/renting.


Save the “lucky” few who still live with their parents and don’t have to pay rent or utility, the majority of adults either rent or pay a mortgage. I would assume that for us Vancouverites intending to travel in our 20’s , we rent exclusively as sky high housing prices limit us to even ever dream of owning a little bungalow or flat.

For those of you unfamiliar with the sky high costs of Vancouver, I currently rent a small 1 bedroom 500 sq ft apartment in the West end of downtown with M. With natural gas included, our rent comes to $975/month. This might seem a lot to the non-vancouverite. But just for a comparison on neighborhood downtown rents; until recently I was living in a 2 bedroom apartment (about 800-900 sq ft) also in the west end for $1530/month. While living in ‘hip’ downtown neighborhoods such as Coal harbor  Gastown or Yaletown would cost around $1600-$2000 for a one to two bedroom apartment. Even if you decide to stay in the cheaper parts of the city, say East Vancouver, a 2 bedroom basement suite would cost you at minimum $1000/month. This is in comparison to my time in a small city in Ontario where the rent was $360/month. But I digress.

So say you are like me, having a desire to live in the center of the city but paying sky high rent, where else could I cut my bills?

Here are some general tips and tricks I have used:

– If you pay natural gas bills, make sure you are not paying for a ‘Marketer rate’, currently natural gas prices is at a historic low and some unsuspecting customers might have signed up with an independent company on the “Cost of Gas”.  For example, currently in the Lower Mainland, Cost of Gas is at $2.995/GJ from the main natural gas provider, however many unfortunate customers signed up with independent companies while gas prices were higher for a 5 year contract at up to $13.05/GJ. An average customer in the Lower Mainland consumes roughly 100 GJ per year. At a marketer rate, that means they spend $1305 just on the cost of gas itself while a non-marketer customer spends only $300; a savings of $1000. Try to get out of the contract.

– Cut the land-lines, it is obsolete.

– Many customers are in locked in contract with their carriers. Try to speak to the “retention specialist” to lower your monthly fee. For example I spoke to the retention department after voicing my displeasure on my monthly fees. After speaking to the retention department, my plan went down from $70/month to $37.5/month. This included: 200 daytime minutes, 100mb data (extra $5 for each additional 100mb used), unlimited text, caller ID, unlimited calling after 5pm and voice-mail.

-consolidate services. If you have cable and internet from the same provider, speak to them about consolidation. More often than now they will tell you a promotion to lower your prices.

– Cut cable, no one needs it as long as there is internet. As well, my experience with my internet provider is that a few months after I ended my cable services, they called me up to offer free cable for 6 months with no contracts. I ended the cable again just as the 6 months was up, and 2 months later they offered me the same promotion again!

-If you are stuck in a contract with your carrier or cable/internet provider. Voice your opinions and give them ‘attitude’. However do not be rude or insulting. But be insistent in your request to get a better deal or end your contract. Many carriers are willing to re-negotiate as long as you are not losing your temper.

-Lose the car. Especially if you are a city dweller. Use car share programs such as Car2Go instead. It sucks not having a car, but the money you save from gas, maintenance and insurance is worth it. For example, I was spending $180 on insurance, $200 on gas and $100 on parking each month. The total yearly expenditure I was wasting on owning a car with maintenance fees included probably came to at least $7000/year. I sold my car and bought a bus pass; I spend only $1320 a year now. If I go on road trips , I rent a car.

-Lastly, the obvious but sad truth. In the last several months prior to leaving on your trip. Stop shopping, and limit going out for dinner and drinks. It helps if you leave the debit and credit cards at home and only use cash. It is hard to do, but willpower is key.

– And of course, when the tax returns come back or when you get your yearly bonus; only spend 10% of it and sock the rest away to a TFSA or RRSP. That way, it is very difficult to have access to it.

And there you have it, how to save money in Canada where everything is more expensive.


Hong Kong. Travel. Climb. In that order.

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