How to Save Money when you Live in the City

Whether you live in the city yourself or just hear the people you know complaining about it, calling Toronto (or any other major city) home can be a huge drain on your budget. Between skyrocketing rent and mortgage prices, parking costs, taxes, food, and entertainment, living downtown can do a number to your bank account each month. We know living in the city costs more than living anywhere else, but what can you do to keep yourself under budget?


Why is Living in the City so Expensive?

Let’s start with the easy question. As mentioned above, the typical expenses that tend to hit city-dwellers the hardest are rent/mortgage payments and car costs (for insurance, gas and for parking).

Toronto recently overtook Vancouver to become the most expensive city in the country to rent a one bedroom apartment in; it’s pretty clear where a huge chunk of the average city dweller’s income is going each month.

For drivers, living in the city often means forking out a lot of money on parking/parking passes and gas. Your chances of getting ticketed are also higher when you live in the city and city dwellers usually have to contend with higher car insurance rates.

Even those who don’t drive feel the pinch; the costs associated with using public transit and ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft can add up really quickly too.

So, what can you do to alleviate the burden on your wallet?

Shop Smart


Little expenses can add up far more quickly than you might realize; even a few extra unexpected costs a month can start the slow slide into debt. This is why you should try to save money when and where you can.

Actively look for deals at your local grocery store before you go shopping and try to plan your list around what items are on special. If you tend to buy a lot of essentials from the same shop, see if there’s a mailing list you can sign up for and benefit from coupons and promo codes sent directly to your inbox.

Keep an eye out on discount sites like Groupon, Ebates and RetailMeNot to save money on events (like discounted concert and theatre tickets), clothing, and a number of other online purchases.

Prepare your own food


This is one of the pieces of advice that’s repeated the most often, and for good reason. Cooking more meals at home is not just better for your wallet, it’s better for your health too. Unfortunately, it fails to take into account the reality that most people are too tired to make a proper meal when they get home from work, never mind prepping their lunch for the next morning ahead of time too.

This is why we suggest coming up with a list of staple ingredients that can be used to make an array of different meals that are healthy, fast, and tasty. These meals don’t have to be complicated and should be something you can throw together relatively last minute without any stress. If you can get leftovers out of them that also cover lunch the next day, even better.

Another great option is investing in a slow cooker. Slow cookers allow you to throw all of your ingredients into it before you leave for work (or the night before, if you’re prepping your lunch for the next day) with no stress and minimal prep required. You’ll arrive home to a delicious, warm, and fully cooked meal that’s ready to eat. 

Practice the 24 hour rule


The 24 hour rule is one of our go-to rules on this blog, and for good reason; many an unwise financial decision has been halted by employing a 24 to 48 hour grace period before purchasing in order to ensure it’s really worth it.

The best part of the 24 hour rule is that it can be applied to anything, not just big ticket items. Sure, you should definitely mull it over for a few hours before dropping a couple grand on a new Smart TV , but you can also give yourself permission to sleep on smaller purchases before buying.

Have Emergency Money on Hand (Literally)


Emergency savings are a must have for everyone, but that’s not just limited to making sure you have some extra money set aside in your savings account. We encourage everyone to keep some kind of physical jar or cash depository for emergencies directly in your home. Set aside anywhere from $50.00 to $100.00 that are only to be used when necessary.

This money will come in handy when you find yourself needing to pay a delivery person, taking transit unexpectedly, calling a cab, or being faced with an unexpected ‘collect on delivery’ fee from your local mail delivery person.

Furnish Your Home Wisely


Living in the city means living in a considerably smaller space than you’d get elsewhere but paying a lot more for it. This means that basically every large item in your home has to pull double duty: it has to be practical while also adding to the décor.

Invest in furniture that serves multiple purposes (a futon couch that doubles as a bed, for example, or a TV stand that doubles as a bookshelf) and try to focus on acquiring items that are of a decent enough quality that they won’t need to be replaced in a year or two.

And remember to use your wall space as effectively as possible! Hanging shelves are a great storage option, as are hooks to store your pots and pans and other practical items that then to take up a lot of room on the shelf.