There’s a long list of reasons why Canada is a great draw for expats from across the world, but there’s one factor that makes many of them think twice about moving: the cost of living. Of course this depends on many factors – where in Canada you choose (or need) to live is one – the big cities are extremely expensive, but in comparison, the smaller towns and rural areas can be surprisingly cheap.Where you’ve come from is another factor. Many countries in Western Europe have a higher cost of living than Canada does. In fact, according to Mercer’s 2014 Cost of Living Rankings, the highest ranking Canadian city is Vancouver, at only 96. That means that there are 95 cities across the world that have a higher cost of living than Vancouver, the most expensive Canadian city.
Nonetheless, the fact is that most people would love to know how they can spend less without drastically affecting their quality of life, and for expats, this can be difficult, being in a new country and not knowing how things work.
So here are a few tips on how you can live a good expat life in Canada while spending less money.
Depending on which part of the world you’ve come from, you may not be familiar with price matching. It essentially means that a store commits to matching the prices of its competitors. If you turn up at the grocery store that’s convenient to you with proof (a promotional mailer will do) that a competitor is charging less for an item, your store may agree to charge you the lower price. You don’t have to choose between wasting time and fuel driving to the cheaper store a few extra miles away or spending more money at the store that’s nearer to you. Of course, you need to check whether your regular store does offer price matching. Wal-Mart openly promotes its price-matching practice, but other big stores such as Real Canadian Superstore are also known to do it. The best thing to do is to ask the store manager.
Buy at sales and in bulk
Buying at sales isn’t some great revelation. However, the mistake most people make is that they buy more at sales, effectively spending the same amount of money (sometimes even more!). Worse still, they buy things they don’t need, just because they’re on sale. Instead, a good way to take advantage of price cuts is to have a regular shopping schedule and a list; then, when there’s a sale, buy enough to allow you to skip the next scheduled shop.
The same goes for bulk shopping – there are many things that you can stock up on, but keep track of your stock after you’ve bought it. Don’t end up throwing away a two-year-old kilo of pork from your freezer or buying more toilet paper when you have 20 rolls stored in your garage.
Use electricity smartly
Whenever possible, make it a point to use electrical appliances during off-peak hours, when the rates are lower. This can’t be done with everything, but with things like your washing machine and your dishwasher, it should only require a little bit of planning. In addition, make sure you buy energy-efficient appliances – look for the Energy Star symbol when shopping. Don’t be tempted by the cheaper options – they may save you a little money initially, but you’ll spend more on electricity bills for the rest of their lives.
Challenge your property tax assessment
Check whether the assessed value of your home isn’t higher than its actual market value – if it is, you can challenge the assessment and end up paying lower property taxes. A lot of Canadian homes are incorrectly valued, and most homeowners don’t appeal the assessment; however, most of those who do appeal are actually successful.
Banking fees can be quite high, so check whether you actually need and are using all the services that you’re paying for. If not, see if you can opt out of the unnecessary services, or else move to a bank that charges less and doesn’t offer the unnecessary services. Whenever possible, you can also set up bills to be paid automatically, so that you’re less likely to owe late fees. Also, very importantly, make it a practice to pay off your credit card balance every month.
Those are our tips for saving money in Canada. Do you have any other helpful hints to share? Add your thoughts in the comments.