Living in Vancouver on a student budget

Vancouver is ranked as one of Canada’s most expensive cities. Living on a student budget can be a struggle. Here are some tips on how to navigate the city without putting a hole through your wallet:

1. Grocery Shopping

This may be the time to start learning how to cook. Try to stock up your fridge every 15 days so you will not be tempted to eat out or order delivery every day and this can be a healthier dietary option. Furthermore, buying food in bulk is cheaper.

2. Say no to bars and restaurants 

Do you buy something from your local coffee shop every day ($4-8)? Do you go to the bar every weekend ($30-50)? Do you dine out with friends or your partner multiple times per week ($40-100+)? While Vancouver is definitely a hot spot for eating and drinking, costs can add up quickly if you’re worried about paying your bills.

Let’s assume you spend $4 on one coffee a day, dish out $40 at the bar every weekend, and dine out twice a week at $25 per meal. If you cut out these three things for 30 days, you’ll save at least $480. That can go a long way after a few months.

Instead, make your own coffee in the morning. Plan your meals for the week. Go grocery shopping so you can make dinners at home and bring your own lunch to school. And forget about those drinks at the bar–you can find more wallet-friendly ways to spend time with friends.

However, being cheap does not mean you can’t treat yourself every once in a while. Always look for budget options (under $10) and scour out Breakfast Deals (usually before 10am) and Happy Hours (usually between 4pm and 9pm). 


Always look for the big red ‘SALE’ sign when it comes to purchasing your wardrobe. Fast fashion brands such as H&M, Forever 21 and Zara almost always have a sale section that you can scour for the best deals. Winners have low prices to begin with and a wide variety of brands to choose from. Further, the best times of the year to look for deals are on Black Friday and Boxing Day. Another thing you can do is subscribe to email newsletters to receive extra discounts. 

4. Prioritize your purchases

We all have things that we want to buy. But those usually far exceed what we can afford on a student budget. Try to make a lift of things you want to buy then rank them from 1 to 3: 

  • 1 = essential to buy now
  • 2 = need to purchase, but not right away
  • 3 = would like to buy, but don’t really need it

Start with buying items ranked number one, and if there’s money left, perhaps buy your most needed number 2 items. At the end of the year, if there’s extra money left, threat yourself to one of the items ranked number 3 on the list. 

  1. Cheap Thrills

Vancouver is blessed with gorgeous natural beauty. Taking a walk on the beach or going for a hike are fun activities that you can do for free! 

  1. Public Transit

Vancouver has one of the best public transit systems in Canada. A number of beaches, natural parks and hiking trails can be accessed through buses and trains running across the city. 

School is hard and living in an expensive city is both emotionally and physically taxing, so it’s completely okay if you choose not to focus on money matters and treat yourself once in a while. However, being a little clever with your finances consistently will help you go a long way in contributing to savings. 


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