This article popped up on my Facebook newsfeed the other day and it was written by Narcity and was titled along the lines of ‘Money Hacks for Living in Toronto’, which I thought was a super relevant and useful post. So, I clicked (click bait for real on this one) and skimmed through their ‘hacks’. To say I was disappointed would be a severe understatement. They had a few decent ones (few being maybe one), most were a stupid stretch, and the last one was absolutely ridiculous! Their final ‘hack’ for affordable living in Toronto was:
“Sign up for a TD Student Line of Credit”
ARE YOU JOKING ME?! ‘Hey guys, if you can’t afford to live in Toronto, just get a line of credit to help’. I cannot even BEGIN to explain why this is a terrible idea. If you’ve read my post on my debt story, you’ll know why this is TERRIBLE advice on Narcity’s part. I’m sure most people with some financial sense would know this is a bad idea but hey, I was uneducated with money at one point and would have definitely signed up for a line of credit. I think the worst part is that people know it’s a bad idea but do it anyways. So, I’m rounding up my Toronto Money Hacks. I promise you, none of them include going into debt to afford to live in Toronto.
Get a Roommate
Guys, I know it feels super lame to have a roommate but it is easily the best way to save money living in Toronto. You can split utilities and rent in half, plus you always have someone to hang out with. If you’re worried about someone getting in your way, find a roommate that runs on opposite schedules. The most important things I looked for was lifestyle match (if they partied a lot or always had friends over, we wouldn’t work well together) and cleanliness (who cares if their room is messy – as long as common areas are clean, I was ok). I also have found living with strangers is actually less stressful than friends. Yes, you have to screen more carefully and you could get a ‘bad one’ but there’s also no added pressure of ruining a friendship. If you guys don’t have similar interests, you can be like two ships passing in the night with no worries. If you live with a friend and it doesn’t work out, it can be downright awkward.
Ditch the Goodlife Membership
If your condo has a gym, use it! Don’t pay for that pricy Goodlife or Equinox membership when you have one you can use for free. If you aren’t blessed with a free gym, Toronto has lots of community centre gyms you can buy passes for that are a fraction of the cost of Goodlife. If you like classes but aren’t down with paying $20 a class, try ClassPass – which lets you try different classes in the city on a monthly fee that’s cheaper than joining all of the different gyms. I also used to do “new member” trial passes for two weeks just to get in some classes then would bounce to a new gym. There’s also a TON of fitness gurus on Instagram that post free workouts and a lot can be modified to be done at home with little equipment. Fit can be free, guys.
Ditch the ‘Big Box’ Grocery Stores
One of the best discoveries I had when J and I moved to our new neighbourhood was that there were some little ‘bodegas’ around that sold produce way cheaper than Sobeys and Grocery Gateway! It’s a bit more annoying to separate your grocery trips to two or three different stores (especially when you don’t drive!) but you can save a lot of money this way. I bought $15 worth of produce at our corner market, which would have been $35 at Sobeys! The quality is also much better, since I find they get stock more frequently. We use Grocery Gateway to deliver bulk items twice a month (which is cheaper than renting a Car2Go or a taxi) and I try to get the stuff we use a lot on sale (cat food, paper towel, toilet paper, etc.) and stock up when it is.
Instead of Taxis or Ubers, Use Car Sharing Programs
I use Car2Go, which is a car sharing program in Toronto. It’s super convenient – you can park in any approved legal spot (and even if you get a ticket, Car2Go pays for it), you can drop it off when you’re done using it (no returning to its pickup spot) and gas and insurance is all covered. The cars are rated per minute, so it starts at $.41/minute up to $.47/minute depending on the car you get (they have Smart Cars and Mercedes-Benz GLA/CLAs) and then rates change for the hour and for the day. If you need to jet home from the grocery store or are running out for a quick errand, often times it’s cheaper to do car share then taking a taxi!
Follow The Drink Specials
One of the best parts of being in the city is that there is always somewhere to go! This can get pricey though. So, whenever I’d get together with my girlfriend Emma (we were both always on a budget) we’d search for the best drink specials that night. There are drink specials every night at multiple bars so don’t feel like you need to hit up the most expensive place to get the best experience. Some of the best hidden gems also have great drink and food specials!