In a city where money is top of mind for everyone, these locals share tips and tricks that help keep them from falling behind.
By now you’re likely tired of hearing the old refrain, “Vancouver is expensive,” and we can’t blame you. In a city where the average price of a home is over $1 million, and the average household income is roughly $75,000 a year, it’s difficult to make the numbers add up. And yet, people continue to make their finances work for them to afford homes, cars and even the odd vacation, even if they aren’t necessarily earning big bucks (which is obviously a relative term in our fair city). From strategically setting up your online banking to making smart purchases, three Vancouverites share how they manage their money in one of the world’s priciest cities.
Get Your Money Organized
With the proliferation of smartphones and people’s increased confidence in their technological skills, it’s no surprise that just about everything can be done online, including money management. Rather than shying away from the free tools offered by financial institutions, embrace them—the apps and websites managed by banks and credit unions are heavily encrypted, after all, and they can be highly useful for tracking your monthly spending. “I like to separate bank accounts based on spending,” says Kristin Lambert, an educator and part-time bartender who managed to finance a wedding and the purchase of a home in the past few years, as well as going back to school. If you’re more of the pen-and-paper type, mapping out your finances on a bi-monthly basis is a great way to get a clear picture of what you spend in a month—and then cut out unnecessary expenses or shift extra money into your savings or debts accordingly. “I also keep track of what I spend essentially like a chequebook,” adds Lambert. “So just recording on a calendar every day what I spend and then every two weeks, I total it to see where I am at for my monthly spending. the time to acknowledge where I am at for the month and own up that if I am out of money, I can’t spend any more.” Photo: Courtesy of Kristin Lambert
Think Outside the Box with Your Purchases
While it might not be possible to find an amazing deal on your rent or mortgage payments, there are a lot of deals to be found when it comes to other purchases—if you’re willing to put in a little legwork. “Vancouver’s secondary market is a proto-marketplace,” says Nick Nalpantidis, a business analyst who’s been using online message boards to buy and sell collectables, furniture and more for years. Eschewing the traditional retail price tag by combing through sites such as Craigslist, or even signing up for a trading app like Bunz, will help you pinch pennies and give you access to more unique items. “You can save a lot of money looking for housewares, furniture, games and more through sites like Craigslist, since people in the Lower Mainland are generally short on space, short on cash, or both,” says Nalpantidis. “As long as you’re savvy and avoid the people trying to charge market price for a used IKEA bookshelf, you can definitely clean up.” Photo: Courtesy of Nick Nalpantidis
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
We live in a city with some of the best restaurants in Canada and with our busy, modern lifestyles (or lack of culinary skills), it’s easy to become heavily reliant on dining out and ordering in. Like it or not, these purchases add up much quicker than well-planned trips to the grocery store and a little meal prep. “I think when you live in Vancouver, the best thing to do is more activities in nature that don't cost money—walking the neighbourhoods, hiking, swimming at a lake or in the ocean—and to use the savings to go out still, but go out less often,” says Mila Khaskin, a collections officer and condo owner. With its perfect mix of urban convenience and proximity to the ocean and mountains, Vancouver certainly isn’t short on things to do. Stepping outside of your typical dinner-and-a-movie plans and exploring alternative, cheaper options can go a long way towards making the city a bit more liveable. “Choose to eat at home and go for beer at a local brewery instead of going to a restaurant and buying drinks and food,” adds Khaskin. “Save the movie theatre money and just wait a few months until the movie comes out on Netflix or another streaming service.” And when all else fails, “eat your avocado toast at home.”
Put a Plan in Place
Whatever your financial goals, some strategic planning will help you achieve them—but you don’t have to go it alone. “If you go on a trip—for example down to Seattle—how do you get there? You need a plan, and you don’t need to create that plan alone,” says Jeff Olensky, Wealth Management Specialist at Prospera Credit Union’s Kelowna Mission Park branch. Financial wellbeing is a journey, and if you choose a financial planner to be your co-pilot, you’ll see that your financial goals are within reach. From separating out your bank accounts for each expenditure and savings goal, to saving money on food and household items, there are lots of little ways to get organized and cut costs while living in Vancouver. After all, instead of just working to live in this city, it’s important to make this city work for you. Photo: Courtesy of Mila Khaskin