Vancouver Money & Budget: A Few Case Studies

Living in Vancouver can be very pricey by Canadian standards. Consumer price indexes, and statistics on the average Vancouver income are all very well to look at, but it's hard to imagine what your Vancouver budget would be like that way.

It's much easier to identify with a person rather than a number, so have a look at these case studies, and get a better idea of what you can expect to spend in Vancouver.

1. Vancouver Budgets - A Look at a University Student
2. Making & Spending Vancouver Money: Gerald's Downtown Lifestyle
3.  Meet Mara, Jeff & their Vancouver Budget
4.  Julian, Sarah & the Kids - A Family's Vancouver Budget

1. Vancouver Budgets - A Look at a University Student


student budget to live in Vancouver BCAllison's in her second year studying biology at the University of BC. She moved from Calgary to Vancouver, and in her first year learned a lot about budgeting.

After experiencing Vancouver's transit system, she decided she didn't need her car, and now saves money riding the transit system, and never has to worry about finding parking.


This year, after spending her student loan of $4,000 on her UBC tuition, U-Pass transit pass, books, and the student body medical plan, she's left with her monthly expenses.


$4,000 student loan spent on:

     > $120 for 4-month U-Pass, a transit pass for university students
     > $570 for books & school supplies
     > $216 for extended medical insurance
     > $3,119 tuition for one semester


Fixed Expenses for Allison's Vancouver Money

Allison rents one room in a townhouse in Kitsilano with two other students. Her share is $700/month. If she were living on campus she would be paying around $500 a month for a shared room and wouldn't have the flexibility to pay month-to-month. She also pays $105 as part of her share of utilities, like Internet/cable, phone and electricity.


Allison's Vancouver Budget - Income

She works part-time at a coffee shop making coffee, but the $725 she makes each month isn't quite enough. Fortunately her parents are giving her $575 per month to help fill in her income gap.

So she has $1,300 a month worth of income. Once her fixed costs of rent & utilities are paid, she has $495 to spend on clothes, groceries and going out.

     > $725/month part-time job income
      > $575/month gift from parents


How Does Allison Save Money within Her Vancouver Budget?

Allison is a pretty good shopper and is always going through the ads. She spends $300 on food a month.

That leaves her $195 for everything else. She loves to go to the local Irish pub for 36-cent wings on Wednesdays, and buy the occasional cafeteria meal when she's in too much of a rush to make a lunch.

Allison also saves money on long distance calls by using online voice services on her computer to call home. The service she uses is only 3 cents/minute.

Allison's budget at a glance
Income Per Month
Part-time Job $725
Parents $575
Total $1,300
Expenses Per Month
Rent $700
Utilities $105
Long Distance Phone  $3
Groceries $300
Going Out / Entertainment $100
Clothes / Miscellaneous / Savings $92
Transit Included in Tuition
Total $1,300


2. Making & Spending Money Vancouver: Gerald's Downtown Lifestyle


engineer - cost of living in Vancouver BCGerald is a fresh-out-of-school software engineer who rents a studio apartment overlooking Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver.

While much more expensive than his university rent at $1,225 per month, it's not beyond his means.

He has no landline, but has the latest touch cell phone. By saying that he was going to "look elsewhere", he managed to negotiate himself a basic student data plan to keep in touch with friends and family, costing about $60/month.


His heating and water are included with his apartment, and he's walking distance from work, grocery shopping, and lots of wonderful restaurants. To keep fit, Gerald takes advantage of his apartment building's free exercise facilities.

Gerald's Income at a Glance
Income Per Year
Salary $40,000
Taxes $5,913 
Total $34,087
  Monthly After Taxes
Salary $2,841  


It keeps costs down, as he doesn't need a transit pass, but by his own admission, being close to so many great restaurants isn't great for the wallet. Eating out is probably the single biggest reason he doesn't save much for buying his own place in the future. He likes to eat out 4 - 5 times a week! That sets him back around $500 a month.


He's better when it comes to work - he likes to make his own bag lunch, but being downtown means he pays extra on fresh fruits and vegetables. His grocery bill is higher than it was in university at $415 a month.


When the weather's good, Gerald enjoys spending his weekend by taking his motorcycle over the Lion's Gate Bridge and exploring the North Shore, with occasional stops at coffee shops to warm his hands. His bike is good on gas and insurance; he spends about $90/month on gas and insurance, and maintenance is inexpensive at an average over the year of $38/month.

At the end of the month, he generally has around $59 to put into savings. At his current rate, he'll need a raise before he can get together a down payment if he wants to buy a house before he's sixty.


Gerald's Expenses at a Glance
Expenses Per Month
Rent $1,225
Groceries/Food $415
Eating Out $500
Motorcycle Maintenance $38
Motorcycle Insurance $90
Gasoline $30
Utilities (Electricity, Internet, TV) $120
Medical Service Plan Premium  $64
Cell phone $60
Clothing $40
Entertainment/Bar $200
Total $2,782

Monthly Balance
Total Income Per Month $2,841
Total Expenses Per Month $2,782
Money going into savings  $59



3. Meet Mara, Jeff and their Vancouver Budget

couple - cost of living in Vancouver BCMara and Jeff are a young professional couple that has bought their first apartment together in the Vancouver neighborhood of Marpole.

Jeff is a registered nurse working for a Richmond hospital, while Mara is a graphic designer for a web marketing company downtown.

Mara and Jeff were able to manage a $35,000 down payment on their apartment which they bought for $229,999.

They have a monthly payment of $1,085 on their 25-year mortgage. Having one of the larger units in the building, they have a higher monthly strata fee of $245 per month. This goes towards the water bill, cleaning the public areas, and maintaining a small garden and sitting area out in front of the building. Mara thinks it's a great place to sit on a sunny Sunday afternoon reading a book.


Mara & Jeff's Income at a Glance
Income Per Year
Jeff's Salary $42,000
Jeff's Taxes $ 6,823 
Mara's Salary $35,000
Mara's Taxes $ 5,031
Total Combined Income After Taxes $ 65,146
Income Monthly After Taxes
Combined Salary $ 5,429

Being in Marpole, Mara is a quick three-minute bus ride to the Canada Line SkyTrain, and from there it's an easy 15-minute ride to Waterfront. During a business day, parking downtown can cost $18 for the day, so in a week she saves enough on parking alone to pay for her $81, 1-zone monthly transit pass, keeping her Vancouver budget down. It also means she never has worry about traffic.

Jeff, on the other hand, drives over to Richmond every day to work. Depending on the weather and what shift he's working, he often parks a few blocks away and walks to the hospital to avoid paying for parking.

Both Mara and Jeff are active, and Mara is a member of a yoga club in Kerrisdale, which costs her $90 a month for unlimited sessions. Jeff is a member of a Judo club in Burnaby and pays $150 a month for his training twice a week.

Along with their house, Mara and Jeff own a new mid-size sedan that they've financed. Since it's new, maintenance costs are low, and Jeff's clean driving record means they get a great monthly insurance rate, since he's the primary driver. While it's a short drive to work for Jeff, the rising cost of gas, and the stop-and-go of rush hour traffic means he pays out more in gas than he'd like.

Mara and Jeff like to stay connected, and because of Mara's work, she has a fancy cell phone with a data plan. Jeff's basic cell phone is for texting and calls only, so he's only paying $30/month against her $65/month plan.

Jeff and Mara have a weekly tradition of going out for a nice dinner every Tuesday night, and they have a taste for fine wine, so they routinely spend around $240 a month on eating out. Jeff likes to make his own lunch for work, but eats a lot of deli meats, while Mara likes frozen meals she can take to work. They spend significantly more than the average couple on groceries at $500/month.

Because of Jeff's shift work, Mara likes to have cable TV for the nights she's home alone, so they got a good bundle rate on Internet, cable, and long distance phone plan ($120/month).

Despite their indulgences, Mara and Jeff are pretty good with their money and they have planned to always set aside at least $1,000 per month, and any excess income, so they often put as much as $1,550/month aside for emergencies and long-term savings. At some point, they hope to buy a house further out of town and raise a family.


Mara & Jeff's Expenses at a Glance
Expenses Per Month
Mortgage $1,085
Groceries/Food $500
Eating Out $240
Transit Pass $81
Car Payments $415
Car Insurance $166
Clothing $180
Car Maintenance $100
Parking $50
Gasoline $100
Utilities (Internet, TV, Heat, Electricity) $170
Strata Fees  $245
Cell phones $95
Medical Service Plan Premiums  $102
Entertainment $350
Planned Savings   $1,000
Total Expenses $4,879

Monthly Balance
Total Income Per Month $5,429
Total Expenses Per Month $4,879
Additional Savings $550


4. Julian, Sarah & the Kids - A Family's Vancouver Budget

family with kids - cost of living in Vancouver bcJulian is an administrator with a large legal firm in Vancouver, while his wife Sarah is a chemical engineer with a firm located in Delta.

With their combined income they were able to purchase a four-bedroom townhouse in Surrey for $499,999 with a down payment of $60,000.

With a 25-year mortgage they're making a monthly payment of $2,456. 


Income Per Year
Julian's Salary $47,000
Julian's Taxes $8,308
Sarah's Salary $69,000
Sarah's Taxes $14,842
Total Combined Income After Taxes $92,850
Income After Taxes Per Month $7,738

Their two boys, aged 9 and 11, both play soccer in the local league during the fall, take swimming lessons during the summer, and Aikido all year long. Keeping the kids registered and clothed for these sports costs the family around $300 a month.

Sarah recently bought a truck for work that she's financing through the dealership, which costs $654/month. With insurance and maintenance, it means she puts an overall total of $979 per month towards their vehicle. Julian saves money by buying 3-zone bus pass for $151 every month. Julian does have small compact car for running the kids around, but it's paid off, so it only costs him insurance and maintenance, a combined $250 per month.

With a bigger house, come bigger expenses, with heating and electricity costing them around $140/month. Their strata fees of $249 cover not only water, but also the general maintenance of the grounds.

The kids watch TV and surf the Internet, with the combined package costing them around $120/month.

Julian also attends lunch-time Tai-chi classes downtown and Sarah gets her exercise by training at a local fencing club, running them about $275/month. At the end of the month, anything left over is set aside for family vacations or the kids' college fund, and most months, that's about $471.


Julian & Sarah's Expenses at a Glance

Expenses Per Month
Mortgage $ 2,456
Groceries/Food $ 825
Eating Out $ 300
Transit Pass $ 151
Truck Payment $ 654
Truck Insurance $ 225
Truck Maintenance $ 100
Car Insurance $ 125
Car Maintenance $ 125
School Supplies $ 127
Clothing (Kids & Parents) $ 350
Gasoline $ 350
Utilities (Electricity, Heat, Telephone, TV, Internet) $ 260
Medical Service Plan Premiums $ 114
Strata Fees $ 249
Daycare $ 130
Life Insurance Premium (Ten Year Term) $ 76
Kids' Recreation $ 300
Parents' Recreation & Liquor $ 350
Total   $ 7,267


Monthly Balance

Total Income Per Month $7,738
Total Expenses Per Month $7,267
Additional Savings $471

Important note: The budgets presented in this article are only examples and may not represent your exact situation.

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