Living in the ‘most expensive city’ in Canada… on a budget.

Vancouver has often been reported as either the or one of the most expensive cities in Canada. So, I definitely think I have some expertise in how to do a year abroad on a budget. And it’s not even that hard. Hopefully this blog will help everybody whether you’re coming to Vancouver or anywhere. I’m just going to give you my 5 top tips on what to do to make your finances stretch that little bit further when you’re abroad.

  • Shop around in the first few weeks.

I definitely made a terrible mistake of going to the first supermarket I saw for the entirety of first semester. I then kept complaining about how expensive it was, when I found out there were many cheaper options I felt so daft for not looking in other places sooner.

Another random tip about groceries is to really check the labels on food here, sometimes they put price per 100g on the labels not the actual price of the product. This has resulted in many financial mishaps for me including accidentally spending $20 on guacamole without realising it. So yeah, read labels is a good tip. But you’re probably not as daft as me.

  • Set a weekly budget.

I know sounds kind of boring but I did this in the second semester and it definitely helped limit my spending. Sometimes it can be so easy to tap away with your card which makes it so hard to keep track of what you’re spending. Having a weekly budget can help you to keep track of this spending and also make sure you’re not making very odd purchases.

  • Set money aside for travels

I saved money up before coming on my year abroad and I could’ve so easily ruined all this by splurging throughout my time in Vancouver but I didn’t. I strongly suggest you follow what I did and establish how much you roughly want to have for your travels. I set aside an amount of money at the start of the year that I said would be for my end of year travels. This really does help, I know that it also helped me to set a proper budget for the rest of my semester as well.

  • Find free/discounted attractions for you to visit

In Vancouver, the art gallery is free on Tuesday evening, also Capilano suspension bridge does a year-long entry ticket for residents. So, you can visit as many times within a year for the price of one visit. Stanley park is always a great place to visit on a sunny day. Basically, it’s worth researching your destination to find out what activities you can do for free or how can you get a discount. I just googled free things to do in Vancouver and now if I ever have a day when I want to do something I look to the list and see what I could do for free.

Stanley Park Seawall

Stanley Park Seawall- Definitely one of the best things to visit for free in Vancouver.

  • Use Transferwise

This is a generally useful tip for anybody going on a year abroad. This is a great website for getting money to you on your year abroad. It definitely saves you a lot more than transferring through your own bank, it tends to be quicker and bonus you get a better exchange rate. I literally cannot recommend this more.

Written by Eleanor King – University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


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