Tag Archives: vancouver

4 Ways to Save Money Living in an Expensive City


In my 2 year blogiversary contest, a reader asked me to write about ways to save money (or share some tips about how to save money) while living in an expensive city.

Vancouver has been ranked as one of the most expensive cities to live in. In 2008, Vancouver was ranked only second to New York as the most expensive city in North America.  Vancouver is beautiful, there is no doubt about it.  It has the mountains, the ocean, the beaches, the forest.  You can go swim in the ocean or kayak and go snowboarding in the same day (it will be cold, but you can do it).

Living in an “world class” city like Vancouver has its advantages.  It is a melting pot of culture, and this results in ridiculously delicious and often cheap and good eats.   It does have its disadvantages though (other than the 300 days of rain we get here, of course).

The cost of living is ridiculously high and it can be very expensive to live, work, and play.

Other cities can be notoriously expensive to live in, namely Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Toronto, Montreal, Singapore, Tokyo… the list goes on.

So here are some ways I thought of to save money while living life up in an expensive city:

1. Ditch the Car if You Can

The usual “plus side” of living in an expensive city is a robust and easily accessible transit system.  I live near local cheap grocery stores (example, bananas are $0.59/lb and at the local Safeway, it is $0.89/lb).  Living near a bank, a post office, and the local library can make life much, much easier.  Cycle to work, take transit to work, or walk to work if you can.  If you need a car, you can always find one of those co-op rent a cars for a short term rental (e.g. if you need to move something, or are doing a major shopping trip).

Estimated cost savings per month if you ditch the car?

  • Car Insurance: $150 (approx.)
  • Car Financing or Leasing: $300 (approx.)
  • Gas: $50-$150+ (depending on how far it is to work and how much you drive)
  • Total: $500 to $650+

2. Get a Roommate

Scary serial killers aside, a roommate can be a great way to offset the cost of living.  I know of a few people who have mortgages and rent our a room in their home to a student or someone else who wants to rent for less.  It can be a win-win situation as long as the person isn’t a serial killer.  In Vancouver, unlike renting out a basement suite, if you are the landlord of the home and are renting a room out to a roommate, you can kick them out if you just don’t like them (safety first, of course).  It is apparently much more difficult to kick out month-to-month renters living in basement suites.

However, the downside is sharing a living space.  Some people don’t mind living with others (hey, you might make a new friend, and it can be less lonely!).  I know of a few people who are renting out rooms in their homes.

Estimated Cost Savings/Income per Month:

  • $325 to $500 is the monthly going rate in Vancouver for sharing a living space

3. Scope out Free Activities

Living in a big city has its perks because there are usually a lot of free events.  Free and fun events are a quintessential part of a world class city, and there is no shortage of free and fun events around town.

All you need to do is keep an eye out for bulletin boards, read the local free news paper, watch the local station on TV, and listen to the radio.  There is no shortage of things to do.  I find that the best thing to do for free in a big city is people watch and it is one of my favourite things to do.  I especially love watching couples interact with each other (though I don’t love watching obvious PDA).

Here are 25 Fun and Free things to do in Vancouver if you happen to live in Vancouver and need something free to do.  Oh, and visiting Wreck Beach is one of them (yes, that’s the nude beach we have here in Vancouver…and no, I have not visited it!).  According to National Geographic, Vancouver ranks as one of the top 10 beach cities in the world.  I wonder whether our nude beach had something to do with that….

Estimated Monthly savings:

  • $100- well this is an ambiguous estimate, but lets say you spend $20 a week watching movies or eating out… you can save that amount and instead spend date day or date night doing free things :)

4. House Parties!

A lot of people who are new to Vancouver find it difficult to meet people and find the night life and culture lacking.  Many say it’s because most people stay home to save money and all the parties are usually at homes instead of people going out and spending big coin $$$ clubbing or spending it at bars.

Most of the socialization that goes on in Vancouver (I can’t say this for other cities because I haven’t lived in them) happens at parties hosted by friends or acquaintances.  You can host a potluck and tell everyone to BYOB.  Everyone still has a great time and you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to entertain your guests.

Readers, can you share any other ways to save money while living in an expensive city? 

Cheap and Good Eats: Yew Restaurant Brunch

Now, I must admit, I normally would not go to one of the poshest hotel-restaurants in Vancouver for weekend brunch, but it was for a friend’s birthday and we had a daily deal (which I bought ahead of the time and my friends paid me back for, thankfully). The deal was 2 for $30 through Travel Zoo daily deals (yes, everyone and their pet dog are taking advantage of creating daily deals from their original platforms, including the local radio station!) which made the three course brunch $15 a person at theFour Seasons’ Yew Restaurant and Bar. Highway robbery to the restaurant, if you ask me! On Sundays, they even have 50% off their bottles of wine (mind you, the mark up on the wine is a bit high, but it’s high at every restaurant, I’m sure).

It was absolutely delicious. I am still thinking of it right now and I ate there a month ago. In fact, it was so great that I would not hesitate to go there for the regular price of $27 for full service brunch.

I would highly recommend coming here if you are in downtown Vancouver. It would be a great start to a leisurely day in downtown Vancouver.  Heck, you could even check out the aftermath of the Vancouver riots too, haha.

Here’s what the menu looks like.

So for $15 + tip (on the original $27 of course) and tax, I had:

  • A dozen fresh oysters (normally $12 if ordered a la carte)
  • Tuna Nicoise:  Seared Ahi Tuna, Miso Dressing, Six Minute Egg, Green Beans, Black Olives & Dried Tomato ($19 if ordered separately)
  • And dessert tapas (um…. the best idea EVER if you ask me! Three different miniature desserts on one plate? Hells yeah!) of creme brulee, caramelized chocolate truffle lollipop, and this delicious deep rich chocolate ganache cake. It would have been $9 if ordered separately

So for a $40 value, I paid $15.  I of course partook in the 50% off wine and my taste buds were absolutely deliriously happy by the end of the brunch.  Especially since I got to eat all that for $50 AND had oysters.  Mmmm… oysters.

I thought the service was phenomenal (well, I guess you can’t expect anything but the best at a 4-5 star hotel), the ambiance is great, and the food was to die for.  Everything was delicious.  It was a great memorable afternoon.  We got all dressed up for brunch at the Four Seasons and had a great afternoon.

Readers, have you ever gotten all dressed up for a fancy brunch at a fancy hotel?

Cheap and Good Eat: Golden Garden Banh Mi Sandwiches

Let me first describe to you what a Banh Mi consists of.  A Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sub sandwich that is so delicious my mouth is literally watering as I describe it to you.  They are probably easy to make, but you need access to some fresh ingredients.  Some of these are fresh picked carrots and daikon, cilantro (mmmm), pate (if you’re not vegetarian, that is), Vietnamese salami (the tan coloured cylinder), finely chopped onions, mayonnaise, chili, black pepper, soy sauce, and of course my favourite- fish sauce.  Some of these ingredients may sound puzzling together, but seriously, when they are placed together on a freshly toasted french baguette, they create this delicious synergy of taste bud tantalization.  As Financial Uproar would put it, its like “sex in your mouth” when he describes theatre popcorn (though Banh Mi sandwiches beat theatre popcorn in my books any day).
Unfortunately, the prices for her Banh Mi sandwiches have gone up because of the higher overhead (I assume) of operating a full restaurant versus her sandwich stand.  They used to e $2.25 now they are $4 a sandwich.  However, despite the increased price, they are still good, and they are better (in my opinion) than the Banh Mi sandwiches I had in Vietnam.This is a DEFINITE must eat if you ever come to Vancouver.  I’m sure that you will visit Chinatown here and if you do, you have to stop by Golden Garden.  Kim is the owner of Golden Garden restaurant- she used to operate out of this little hole in the wall grocery shop named Asia Market and had a small Vietnamese sub kiosk in the back.  Her little kiosk business used to be called Kim Saigon Sandwiches.  She recently expanded (in the last few years) and opened up a very modern looking restaurant serving delicious Vietnamese food (and you know how big a fan I am of South East Asian food- including Pho, Pnomh Penh etc).  Despite having her brother and her staff around, she makes these sandwiches freshly in front of you herself.

Kim is so popular that she has been featured on Global TV, and in the local newspapers like the Vancouver Sun.  On long weekends, she gets HUGE orders from all over lower mainland for like 200 sandwiches at a time, and they are so popular that they often sell out in the early afternoon.  They sell out because the delicious baguette that the filling rests on is delivered fresh daily.  She is very friendly and always works so hard.  She once told me that she works 7 days a week for 12 hour days.  Her dedication to her work and her business is always an inspiration.

This is a picture of the Banh Mi sandwich in its entirety, before I devoured it.  Usually just one sandwich doesn’t get you completely full, so my boyfriend often orders two sandwiches.

Golden Garden is located beside tbe CIBC bank on the corner of Main and Pender street in the heart of Chinatown.  I would caution against walking one block north though, because then you’d be in the heart of the Downtown Eastside 😉  Quick Tip: If you take the sandwiches out to go, it will be about $0.50 cheaper than eating the sandwiches in the restaurant.  They also have other delicious Vietnamese cuisine at the restaurant, though the sandwiches are undoubtedly the most popular.

Readers, have you ever tried a Banh Mi before?

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