How Much Money You Need to Live in Downtown Toronto in Your 20s

Casablanca
Photo by mwangi gatheca on Unsplash

Canada’s largest – and arguably most vibrant – city is also the most expensive to call home… especially for any recent(ish) post-secondary grads.

There’s no sugar-coating it: last week, it was revealed that rents in Toronto could increase another 7% in 2020 – a tough reality for those already deflated in the search for a decent (i.e. four basic walls and a semi-functioning kitchen) rental unit. If it’s any (tiny) consolation, rents increased by 9.4% in 2019. So, yay 2020? Anyway, while the cost of living – predominantly when it comes to the rental market – is undoubtedly increasing in Toronto, what’s not increasing at a similar rate are entry-level wages.

So, how much do you really need to dish out to live in Toronto in your 20s?

“There isn’t really a black and white number in my opinion, because it depends on where you live in the city and what field you work in,” says Jessica Moorhouse, a Toronto-based millennial money expert.

“I think an easier way to figure out how much should I be earning to survive (and dare I say thrive) in Toronto, is to make a budget and see if it’s possible to follow the 50/30/20 rule. Plugin how much you expect your fixed expenses (bills/rent/subscriptions) and variable expenses (groceries, social life) to be, and then see how much is left over. If there isn’t even 20% leftover to put into savings, then you’re living paycheque to paycheque, which is not a good place to be.”

With Moorhouse’s insight in mind, we’ve crunched some numbers to reveal the average minimum amount you will need to live in Toronto in your 20s in 2020.

You may want to sit down for this… not that most people in their 20s can currently afford furniture.

Housing

live downtown
Photo courtesy of Housing Matters

Unless you’re relying on the bank of mom and dad (it happens), or have an extremely well paying entry-level job, the reality is that you’ll likely need a roommate (or two) to make rent, utilities, and even your streaming service more affordable. Here’s why: the average cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is now $2,314, according to rentals.ca. Yikes. For most entry-level positions, this could easily eat up an entire paycheque – and then some.

The looming first-of-the-month can be less anxiety inducing, however, with a (reliable) roommate. According to rentals.ca, the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2966; meaning, you’ll each dish out $1493 if this is split equally – a figure that’s still high when you consider you can rent a one-bedroom in Calgary for that price. Still, it’s lower than you’ll pay for most downtown Toronto bachelor and studio units these days. Of course, you can’t forget utilities, which are on average $138.88 monthly, or – shared with your roommate – $69.44.

So, you’re looking at $1562.44 per month just to keep a roof over your head. If you want the luxury of the Internet and a basic Netflix account (which cost about $66.98 per month and $13.99 respectably), this figure jumps to $1602.93 when split between two people.

Your 20s are all about life experience. Living with roommates is something you should embrace, if only so when you can afford to move out on your own you know how special it is.

Transportation

infrastructure

While the only sure way to get from point A to B in Toronto is to walk, there are times when your feet simply aren’t capable of carrying you where you need to go. While the often-loathed TTC costs $3.25 (cash) or $3.10 (Presto Card) each way (or for both ways, if you tap your Presto card twice within two hours), those who rely on public transport as part of the 9 to 5 grind will likely purchase a monthly pass for $151.15, or a 12-month Presto Pass for $134.10 per month.

Inevitably, there will be situations when an Uber or taxi makes more sense than public transportation – especially during late nights out. Assuming a (low) average of Uber or Lyft rides in the downtown core is $12 and the average 20-something uses the rideshare app five times a month, you can allocate a cost of $60 to your transportation tab. (Yes, we’re assuming a few things here, but assuming the TTC will always be working is far more dangerous.)

With a $131.10 Presto Pass and a $60 rideshare tab per month, you’re looking at $191.10 just to consider yourself mobile in the city. Of course, this figure is drastically reduced for the (brave) cycling set and those who are lucky enough to be able to walk to work.

Groceries

live downtown
Photo by nrd on Unsplash

You’re going to have to eat at home as much as possible, which means frequent visits to the grocery store. On average, a male between the ages of 19 and 30 spends $65.48 weekly on groceries – or $340.23 per month – and a female of the same age category spends $50.90 weekly, or $264.48 monthly, according to the City of Toronto’s Nutritious Food Basket cost calculator.

So, on average you’ll need $302.40 per month to meet daily requirements. While it may sound like a hefty figure, eating out – even if you live on a burrito diet – will cost more. “Don’t eat out – or if you do, limit it as much as possible – because this is where most people spend the most money,” says Moorhouse. “Go to the cheaper grocery stores like Freshco or NoFrills instead of Loblaw or Sobeys.”

Dining Out

brunch
Photo courtesy of Patria Restaurant

Those who dish out dollars on the first of each month just to live within the downtown confines, however, want to be able to at least take some advantage of Toronto’s bustling food scene. According to the global cost database website Numbeo, the average tab at an affordable Toronto restaurant is $20. Add a beer or glass of wine, and this average jumps to about $30 with tax.

So, assuming you eat out twice a month, it will cost you $60 – a figure that, admittedly, may seem low to many. Add on buying your lunch four times a month (again, a modest assumption) at $10 per time, and your dining out total is $100.

Drinks

live downtown
Brazen Head Irish Pub & Restaurant

We live in a work hard, play hard culture – especially if you’re in your 20s. But gone are the days of the $2 drinks at bars filled with recent grads – you definitely can’t have champagne tastes when you barely have a beer budget. In Toronto, if you come across a cocktail less than $12, consider yourself lucky. At most spots, domestic beer costs about $7.50, with a glass of wine hitting about the same at affordable spots (i.e. the only places you should be going).

Assuming you meet up with friends for drinks at a bar three times a month at $30 per visit ($90) and have drinks at home with friends three times a month at $15 per time ($45), you’re looking at $135 per month to help your “letting loose” cause. The good news – and something that may come as a surprise as some – is that Toronto is still full of happy hour spots with drink deals just waiting for the cash-strapped like you to take advantage of.

Health and Wellness

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

In today’s climate, most young people would consider health and wellness a necessity than ever before. Unless you have a gym in your condo, a gym membership or yoga class pass is pretty essential. According to Numbeo.com, the average cost of a basic gym membership is $55.26 – a figure that seems surprisingly low. But hey, the all-frills-attached gyms/social clubs are likely out of reach for a few years. (Keep building your resume and bod at the same time.)

So, maintaining a healthy body will add a minimum of $55.26 to your monthly budget. To save cash, you could always buy a set of weights and work out at home, do an online yoga video or lace up those runners and hit the ground running.

Personal Care and Household Items

Photo by Goby on Unsplash

The drug store tab for things like soap, dish and laundry detergent, cleaning products, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, tampons, razors, toothpaste, toilet paper, and skin care products quickly adds up when your parents are no longer footing the bill.

While this amount varies between people and genders, it’s safe to assume that the minimum you’ll spend on such things is $30 per month. Keep in mind that you’ll be sharing some of the household item costs with that reliable roommate of yours.

Phone

millennial

That phone – and all of its much-needed data – that has become an extension of your body comes with a monthly cost that few (see: zero) young people working in downtown Toronto would forego. Based on packages from major providers Rogers and Bell, the average phone bill for a 4GB plan will dent your wallet by about $90 per month.

Extras

Photo by Ali Tawfiq on Unsplash

Whether it’s a surprise phone or bike repair, a pricey prescription, a new shirt for an important work event or just a haircut, extras – especially the unexpected kind – can add up. The average cost of extras is estimated at around $75 per month for 20-somethings (and this doesn’t include fuelling your coffee craving).

THE BREAKDOWN

Housing: $1602.93 (with shared internet and Netflix)

Transportation: $191.10

Groceries: $302.40

Dining Out: $100

Drinks: $135

Health and Wellness: $55.26

Personal Care: $30

Phone: $90

Extras: $75

TOTAL COST TO LIVE DOWNTOWN

$2,581.69 per month, or $30,980.28 per year (pre-tax)

Based on this figure, if you’re making $40,000 per year, you’ll have a “whopping” $1,071.72 per year leftover or $89.31 per month.

If it sounds daunting now, keep in mind that this figure doesn’t include things like clothing, those pesky student loan payments or even a monthly tab in one of Toronto’s growing number of co-working spaces freelancers and startups frequent. Furthermore, remember, this is essentially the minimum amount you’re going to need to get by, and doesn’t account for saving any of those precious pennies.

“Living paycheque to paycheque means you’re not making any progress with your money, you’re just barely staying afloat,” says Moorhouse. “In which case you either need to cut back your expenses or find a way to earn money.”

Moorhouse stresses that your 20s aren’t just a defining decade for personal and career growth, they will also be the decade in which you are probably going to be the most broke in your life – so embrace it.

“Be as frugal as possible. Make a budget as soon as you get a job to keep everything organized. Make saving an emergency fund and paying down debt your main priorities. And if you aren’t making enough at your day job, your 20s are the perfect time to hustle. Get a side hustle, a second job at night and/or the weekends, and save that money,” she says.

Or, if your folks live in the city, you may reconsider your plans to move out of the nest just yet (just don’t shoot the messenger…we’re just over here trying to figure out how we’ll pay our own rents).

Whatever you do, good luck out there. And we promise, your 30s bring better things.

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