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The unaffordable city: how did Toronto get so !@#$%&* expensive—and is it worth it?

Middle-class life isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to a heated real estate market, a strong dollar, new taxes and stagnating incomes, Toronto has become, improbably, one of the world’s most expensive cities. Is it worth it?

(Illustration by Julien Pacaud; skyline photo by Brian Summers)

Today, an average Saturday, I spent the following: $6 on a round-trip TTC ride; about $17 on groceries from the Wychwood Barns farmers’ market (organic Crispin apples, an olive boule and free-range eggs); $34 on two bottles of wine (one decent, one plonk); almost $20 on the recent Superchunk CD and $11 on toiletries. Lunch was cheap and simple: a peanut butter sandwich, an apple and a few spoonfuls of raspberry yogurt. Dinner was free: homemade rice-and-bean burritos at a friend’s house. On the way home from that modest dinner party, waiting forever for the Dufferin bus, I almost splurged on a cab, but it seemed wasteful. Then I got home and booked a flight to New York on Porter for a friend’s 40th birthday: another $326. There’s also what I spend on my mortgage, property taxes, insurance, utilities, cellphone, Internet, YMCA membership, charitable donations and credit card debt. All of that adds up to roughly $65 a day. So, as a childless, home-owning, not-terribly-extravagant-but-not-entirely-miserly-either Torontonian, this one day at the tail end of 2010 cost me—not counting the airfare, which, for argument’s sake, I’m setting aside as an exceptional expense—about $153.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s about $20 more than what I make every day, after taxes. And it leaves nothing, obviously, for home repairs, clothing, vet bills, investments, medical expenses, birthday presents, savings, recreational drugs, holidays or the kid that Liz, my fiancée, and I have been talking about having this year but which, if things continue in this fashion, we’ll have to postpone having until we get jobs that net us more than $50,000 each a year.

Toronto Life is paying me $6,500 to write this article, which is a good chunk of change, sure, especially given how much less other magazines and newspapers are coughing up these days. But it’s also about the same amount I would have been paid if I had written the same article in 1995. And in 1995, the $420,000 that Liz and I paid last summer for a little three-bedroom semi on a somewhat glum, treeless street at Dufferin and Davenport would have bought us an enormous detached home in Trinity-Bellwoods. We would likely have a car or two and a couple of kids; our kids might even have their own cars. We wouldn’t have cared so much that our food was locally or sustainably grown, but we would also have paid less for it and been able to eat in restaurants more than, say, once a month—even if the restaurants we could choose from would be fewer and not nearly as good.

We would have grudgingly become used to paying GST, but we wouldn’t have been paying HST or two land-transfer taxes or five cents for every plastic bag, not that I’m against that particular idea. We wouldn’t have to pay anything to use public swimming pools or put out our garbage. A TTC ticket was $1.30. At bars, you could buy smuggled American cigarettes, $3 a pack, from a greasy guy who carried them around in a duffle bag. Mike Harris would have just been elected. Toronto was just Toronto, and North York was North York; Etobicoke, Etobicoke. Whenever I used an ATM, I would take out $20 at a time, instead of the $100 I take out now, and the cash would go almost as far.

In 1995, whenever I used an ATM, I took out $20 at a time, instead of the $100 I take out now, and the cash would go almost as far

But nothing goes very far now. Enough, it seems, is never enough. This isn’t exactly news. Businesses fail; money moves. Habits change; appetites evolve. What was once a movie theatre becomes a dollar store. Toronto is today coping with an unforgiving drumbeat of financial strain: a still-booming real estate market, new taxes, perilous debt, stubbornly high unemployment and the possibility of stagflation. The city, in many ways and for many more people, is much more expensive than it was 10 or 15 years ago. Growing income polarization has made the middle class a minority where once it was the majority. We’re in no danger of becoming a hollowed-out Buffalo or Detroit; in fact, we are moving in the opposite direction—our downtown increasingly resembles New York City, for better and worse. If Manhattan long ago became a playground for the rich, Toronto is becoming something like a jungle gym; plutocrats purchase $11-million penthouse suites at the new Ritz-Carlton while the rest of us nervously ponder the nutritional value of a Roasted Vegetable Ritz cracker. Smug self-congratulation has characterized our two-steps-forward-one-step-back journey through the recession—Our banks are the best! Our real estate rocks!—but now that we’ve supposedly come out the other side, unless you are a Stronach or a Rogers, things still look scary. Everyday life now means living beyond our means.

  • MC

    While i agree with the Jason’s general thesis a couple of points about what Jason has said:
    1. “I don’t think I’m terrible with money, but I’m not especially good with it, either. When it comes down to it, I don’t like to think about it much because, like many people, I just don’t know that much about it.”

    YET

    2. “Today, I know more about where our food comes from and how much it costs to get here. ”

    Jason, maybe if you spent the same amount of time on your finances as you do researching where your food comes from or where the olive oil is manufactured, you and your partner would not be as stressed. Also, while we live in a wonderful city that has a lot to offer, i think the ultimate moral of this article is live within your means ! Sacrifices need to be made and if you choose a certain lifestyle (i.e. owning a home). There are alternatives to your current predicament: renting, condos in and out of the city, house in the burbs – but they all require you to make tradeoffs and unforutnatly many people blindly make the biggest purchase of their life without opening a simple excel spread sheet and calculating month income vs. expenses and then are surpised when they are having to continuously dip into a line of credit. Becoming edcuated about simple money issues will make living in the city a little/lot tolerable and allow you to enjoy it more.

    Regards

  • krold

    By continuing this gaping trend between poor & rich.
    Toronto will see an increase in crime.
    As we r seeing now a days.
    Then Toronto will an expensive but no so nice place to live and raise your family!

  • nobody

    A freelance journalist’s ability to earn a living is a terrible meter for gauging the affordability of this city. It is well established fact that such writer’s are treated like chattel by the publishers and editors who hire them, to be taken advantage of with rates that are a decade or more out-of-date. Furthermore, their copyright is continually trod on by such publishers, and they are cast aside when they are deemed irrelevant (adieu, Mr Chatto). There are plenty of people in better professions who would paint a more accurate, and less bleak, picture of life in Toronto now. Meanwhile, McBride writes “Ultimately, I’m willing to live in a city that costs a bit more, just as I’m willing to work longer hours, pay a sales tax or fork over a premium for my olive boule.” Such aspirational, yet profoundly short-sighted (does he _ever_ want to have kids?) conclusions are pure Toronto Life twaddle, born of a superficial—and ultimately juvenile—need to keep up and stay trendy. Such anxiety may sell ad space, but it is really poor journalistic form to present a problem and instead of offering potential solutions, deliver only sycophantic rationalizations that bow to the needs of one’s oppressors and bosses.

  • Paul

    I wish media would stop giving the “taxpayers federation” credibility. It is nothing more than a partisan proving ground for Tory wannabes.

  • Trudi

    I’ll give you an idea as to how our city has become so $@&!** expensive. The Canadian government, in it’s infinite wisdom, started to put a price on immigration so that only the very rich, who were prepared to invest no less than $100,000.00 in order to gain landed immigrant status, most of whom bailed from China and specifically Hong Kong. These people are money mad and have a twisted sense of materialism and can only conceive of a life of designer labels, mega-mansions and multiple expensive cars. They have changed the face of Toronto and have driven real estate market beyond the reach of the average Torontonian.
    The very reason why life became intolerable and unsustainable for them in Hong Kong, they have now brought to Toronto.

  • whoa

    wait, you make ((153-20)*365) = ~$49k after taxes a year as a freelance journalist? that’s actually pretty impressive given the sad state of your profession…

  • whoa

    oh, and the other thing to mention is that a bunch of your expenses are discretionary and/or one-time(ish): one certainly doesn’t buy a trip to NYC every day, or even groceries, booze or a Superchunk CD.

  • gosh

    “We would likely have a car or two and a couple of kids; our kids might even have their own cars.”

    cars are not a sign of prosperity , they are a sign of selfishness and stupidity .

    this article is so barfy on so many levels but for anyone who cant see that i cant be bothered to point the rest of it out . bying cds is for 40something suckers . barf pon dis

  • gosh

    BUYING gosh

  • iconice

    No matter how expensive or cheap Toronto is, the simple fact is, it’s not worth it.

    Give me LA, London, Melbourne, or most other truly world-class cities any day.

    Toronto is hoser-ville.

  • urban

    You made $6500 from this article!? Be happy! From my rough count, your story is way less than 6500 words and most magazines still pay $1 per word, newspapers less than half that. Try and make a living from those measly numbers!!! Journalists in this country (just about everywhere else things are better) are treated as slaves by editors who nickel and dime them to death. If you are someone out there considering a career with the fifth estate, don’t do it. You will be an indentured servant for the rest of your life.

  • Joe Q.

    I wonder if the author would have gone ahead with his house purchase if he had evaluated his financial situation thoroughly beforehand.

    One gets the impression that he was not prepared for home-ownership, and that his mortgage and home maintenance debts, coupled with a pre-existing debt burden, is the main reason for his woes.

  • Lord Simcoe

    I moved from Toronto to New York in 2000. At the time, Toronto was quite cheap, and New York was quite expensive — a place where everything cost more. Over the last decade New York was finally cracked open by mainstream retail establishments, among other trends, and in many ways New York started becoming more affordable. Now, I pay less for almost everything in New York except real estate and Toronto is nickel-and-diming its citizens on all the little things — food, transit, movies, etc. No question that Toronto has become more expensive, and frankly I don’t really see the payoff. You are paying more for less, T.O.

  • kelly jones

    i could barely finish reading this article. it sounds like a long whiny rant. while i do agree that toronto is becoming increasing expensive to own a home, i agree with the above comment about financial planning. maybe, instead of writing such a long convoluted story of his expensive his lifestyle is living in toronto, try sitting down and take a close, hard look at his financials and make a plan. short term goals and long term goals etc. if that task is too daunting, seek professional help, there are a lot of good financial planners that can help you.

    kelly jones.
    p.s. the writer my do well to not buy 6$ bread and stick to the basics until he and his family is in better financial shape1

  • Helen

    I don’t think the issue here is about how much one makes and whether or not they are financially savvy or responsible with their money. The issue is whether or not T.O. is a city worth living in, considering how much it actually costs to live here.

    I grew up in this city in the 1970s and am always proud to say that I live in T.O. But it saddens me to say that for the amount of property and income taxes I pay to live here; how much transit, food and gas costs me, that I do not get my money’s worth as a citizen.

    I’ve travelled to a lot world-class cities in my lifetime and believe me, we pay the same amount and in some cases more, for groceries, gas, transit etc. So I ask you, would you rather pay the same amount to live by TO’s waterfront or by the beach in LA?

    Our waterfront hasn’t changed since I was a kid and offers nothing; our transit system has only 3 (count ‘em 3!) subway lines (none of which go to the airport); and our infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up with the growing pace of the city. And when as a citizen, I avoid going downtown on a Saturday night for a simple dinner because of the expensive (and lack of) parking and the amount it’s going to cost me in gas because of the traffic how can I say living in this city is worth it?

  • Crimson Cass

    The billboard tax is not a tax on Torontonians, it is a tax on billboard companies. I’m with the previous commenter who is also annoyed with the Taxpayers Federation.

  • Mike

    What exactly is ‘lower-upper-middle class’? Dude, if you are making mid-40K in this city, you’re middle-class, if that. Sorry to burst that bubble for you.

  • Hugh

    Perhaps given the increasing densification of central urban areas and the resultant increase in property values, urban citizens should reconsider their life expectations. Perhaps home ownership will not be within the reach of most. One fact the author addresses that is quite valid, is that median salaries are not commensurate with living costs in Toronto, and that’s a fact. Rents must come down. Why should the majority live like Dickensian characters, scrimping and depriving themselves in order to have children? Shouldn’t we be able enjoy life and eat our olive boule in return for our hard work? However, enjoying life and having children e.t.c doesn’t necessarily have to include houses and multiple cars. Join a car sharing services instead of buying each of your children cars, live in rental accommodation and reduce conspicuous consumption. Enjoying life has nothing to do with that.

  • Mark

    Holding up Montreal as a paragon of affordability is perhaps misguided. Those low prices you cite – with the exception of Montreal rent, although it too is influenced by these factors – tend to stem from provincial initiatives, such as province-wide subsidized daycare, and government auto insurance schemes. Due in part to these and other subsidies, Quebec is mired in debt and deficit.

    While the results certainly prove the author’s point, I would have like to see Toronto up against a jurisdiction where the playing field was a little more level.

  • Taylor O

    I recently moved from Chicago and was fairly suprised that even though the two cities are comparable in many ways and the exchange rate is mostly at par the price differences for even mass market goods are shocking different.

    For example: Try IKEA.COM vs. IKEA.CA for something typical like a Klippan Sofa. Or BestBuy.Com vs BestBuy.Ca for a typical $1000 laptop. The difference is painfully significant.

  • D V

    so true

  • nobody

    @Taylor, what you are addressing is true, but it has everything to do with the CANADIAN economy in general, not the Toronto economy specifically.

  • Pashukanis

    Interesting article. I would have liked to have seen some discussion of the choices that our government makes in terms of policy. Rent for example is cheaper in Quebec because of more effective rent control (less so these days). Insurance as well, the exorbitant cost here in Toronto compared to Montreal is a direct result of government regulation. There are things our government could do to make this city/province more affordable for everyone but consciously chooses not to – in fact, they choose to make even more expensive by downloading costs from corporations to the individual citizens.

  • dwntwn

    $927 is the average rent of a one bedroom apartment in Toronto? For a one bedroom? A full bedroom with a second living space and separate kitchen? Where are these gems located exactly? Are any of them above ground? When I was looking for a new place in September, anything less than $1000 was either a bachelor, deeply subterranean, or in a neighbourhood where a single woman might think twice about walking home from work after dark.

    A quick glance at viewit has the first page of offers ranging from $795 to $1750. An average price of $1278 – much more realistic from my experience.

  • Elishia Marler

    Really? An average Saturday sees you buying two bottles of wine for $34, shopping at an Organic Market ($$), and a ticket to NYC for a friend’s birthday? You wonder where your money is? It sounds as though you spend way beyond your means and this has nothing to do with living in the city of Toronto. Why would you purchase in Toronto if you were not prepared to maintain your house and even carry the mortgage on your own? Sounds like poor planning to me on your part and that you have a serious sense of entitlement. I was born and raised in Toronto and think it’s a great city. I too owned a house in Toronto and very much enjoyed it until 3 children later we decided we needed more room. As a family we decided to leave the City (gasp!) and move east so that we could afford the home we wanted that had the space we desired. Yes real estate in Toronto is expensive but we find that the cost of living in the East versus Toronto to be no different. We live within our means on cash only and if that means we need to save and wait for a trip to NYC that’s how we do it. Your idea of an “Average Saturday” makes my giggle, as it is so not average! Your article is so very sad and whiny that I was compelled to comment never having done such a thing before, well done!

  • Peter

    Think about it: you didn’t NEED to shop at the market (Metro or Loblaws would have sufficed), you didn’t NEED the new CD, and you could have easily booked a significantly cheaper way to New York (bus and train come to mind but I’ll assume you prefer flying-did a commercial flight ever cross your mind? Porter is unreasonably expensive). As for charitable donations, they’re nice, but if you’re as neck-high in expenses as you claim to be, you really have no room for them, after all, charity should only be a necessity for those who can afford it.
    In short, don’t gripe about expenses when you could have easily shaved 25% of your spending in your daily routine.

  • JUSTQU

    I wish Toronto Life would pay me a good chunk of change to tell readers what life in this city has really become , with tons of part time and minimum wage jobs , how most people can’t afford to travel much less make a downpayment on a home. This article is hardly realistic to the average Torontonian

  • Sheila Stone

    People ask where these one bedroom apartments are? Well I can tell you that I live in Forest Hill and large 1 bedrooms are $975 in my building. I however am in a very large 2 bedroom and pay $1090 including hydro.
    There are many similar priced buildings in my area so I dont know why someone cant find them

  • Mark

    I’ve lived in T.O. for the past 30 years. Although things seem to be bad here, our situation is not unique. Real estate prices, fuel by cheap credit have taken the largest bite out of peoples incomes. But the problem is made worse by stagnating incomes. Yes, the gap between the really rich and very poor is increasing, it’s the gap between public sector and related unionized jobs and those working for private companies that worry me the most. Should a police officer really make more than most lawyers? Does it makes sense that a bus driver makes more than the engineer that designed it?

  • Vikram

    “Despite what Gaudet believes, if I’m paying higher property taxes because my house has been assessed to be worth more, I still have a house—an asset—that’s worth more (assuming we don’t get foreclosed). And it’s a house that’s very close to downtown Toronto, an increasingly rare asset that will, in all likelihood, continue to appreciate.”

    ====

    Wishful thinking, me thinks. The bond market and the Bank of Canada will “in all likelihood” sweep away your assumptions very soon.

  • Stephen

    As a former resident of Toronto, and now a resident of expensive Sydney Australia, let me tell you, Toronto isn’t that bad.

    Where are you going wrong? You’re not keeping a budget. You spent $20 more that day than what you theoretically earned that day? Well guess what: You bought easily $50 more than you had to.

    Wine is a luxury, as is the Cd, and honestly so is the TTC.

    It’s easy for me to forget what it’s like this time of year in Toronto, but you can largely do without the TTC if you buy a bike. Given that you’re buying organic apples and free range eggs, it would stand to reason that you’re environmentally friendly, so why not go this route too?

    Did you realize that generally speaking, mp3′s are cheaper than cd’s these days? It reduces waste that will end up in landfill too, so you’re being frugal *and* environmentally minded while buying them. On that note stop paying for plastic bags.

    And seriously? The plane ticket? I can’t take your financial state seriously at all when you’re willing to splurge on stuff like that. Want to stop living in debt? You have to be proactive. If you can’t afford to do things, then *DON’T DO THEM*. Pay off your debt, because you’re *wasting* money that you could be doing on other things. Charitable Donations? If you can’t support yourself, why are you supporting others?

    Sorry but I don’t even want to read past page 1.

  • jabron

    The “farmer’s markets” in TO are for suckers. Shop at No Frills like the rest of us.

    TO is expensive but keep in mind it is one of the largest cities in North America. It’s not Hamilton.

  • Bruno

    You guys are missing one of his major points…the decline of the middle class. The luxuries he is wasting money on now, were not luxuries 20yrs ago. The shrinking middle class and rising costs for everything (not just inflation) is causing us to miss out on things, that 20yrs ago, we would not even think about.

    We are getting less for more and nobody is fighting it. We work more and can afford less. Its all fine to say pull up your boot straps, don’t buy as much but the point is that we should be able to afford these things. Our parents lived easier and better lives than we ever will. They are also the ones who sold out the younger generations.

  • Sunset

    1966 -1967 – Got married, 22, finishing Ryerson. Wife in nursing. Basement flat for $25/wk. Entertainment – walking up and down Yonge on a Sat. night. Left T.O. in Brother-in-Law’s borrowed 1964 Valiant with everything we owned, including a new baby boy. Bought a 1958 Austin for $225.00 (had red leather seats!) Looked for a job.

    Eventually rented a house for $60 a month with sloping floors, no foundation and heated by an oil fed space heater with stove pipes winding up through son’s room and a big grate at top of the stairs. Winds blowing across the road pushed the plastic we had nailed over front windows inside to billow like a sail. This was in a small Southwestern Ontario city and house owned by the company I got a position with. Watched our 19″ B&W t.v with rabbit ears on a small side patio in the summer when it was very hot. We stayed 3 years. Saved up $1500 and went into business.

    Built our existing house in 1973, a 2 story on a 3/4 acre lot in a small hamlet for $28,000 plus $5000 for the lot. Builder offered to put on a family room and 1-1/2 car garage for an additional $1000. I told him no way…was already afraid of the $223/ mth mortgage payments and a payroll to meet, which often got met before my pay.

    Still in the house, retired, 2 sons, 5 grandchildren – 2 beautiful gals and 3 handsome guys, 10 – 14…all hockey players.

    Now looking at buying a live-aboard 45 ft. boat and living in Costa Rica to follow our hearts desire! One son maybe going to rent the house.

    Some of the best times? Living in that $60 a month house with the dinky toys able to roll down the floor from the living room into the kitchen to the huge electric stove we bought for $25 used and past the holes I drilled in the floor to let the spring water run out when it flooded and sitting on the old side patio in the summer listening to the frogs and crickets.

    So, my wife and I can only wish in a good sort of way the 20 year olds could experience some of what we did…a lot of toughening it out, but the good memories are still with us – even the laugh we get about not going for the family room and garage and a half…45 years and following our hearts!!

  • Bebe Lizardo

    Cry me a Don River!
    I am constantly astonished by the whingeing treatises
    of hardship and deprivation that are regularly penned
    by persons born with horseshoes up their nether regions
    and a silver spoon protruding from their facial orifice.
    I congratulate the author on scoring sixty-five hundred
    bucks for six pages of tedious drivel, but do hope he
    is writing under a pseudonym, as that basement rental
    being used to finance the “dream” doesn’t sound up to code.
    Hell hath no fury like the building inspector dodged.
    Unless you live in New York, where bribery is just another
    expense. Que sera sera!

  • Bebe Lizardo

    P.S.
    As a journalist, presumably you have a subscription
    to “the guardian weekly.”
    If “a week in the life of the world, 4-10 February 2011
    fails to rid you of all desire to reproduce, I don’t know what will.

  • c s

    moneywise toronto is a reasonable city
    you can get lots of freebies like reading this article free from the toronto life online edition
    you can visit ago free on wednesday evenings
    and best of all you get free advices on where to get things cheap from toronto life

  • jeff316

    The problem these days is that everyone lumps reasonable complaints with pure whingeing. I.e. I never understood the complaint about Toronto’s residential property taxes, the lowest in the GTA. Even Hamilton’s are higher. Do you get better value for your services in Hamilton? In Markam? In Milton? Torontonians pay the least and we still complain? Geez.

  • yoggle

    Despite all the comments, good or bad, I travel a ton for work and Toronto is rediculously expensive. We are taxed and extorted to the tits on almost everything. I have a six figure salary and am by no means hard up but it rather expensive. $4.50 or whatever just to sit in a cab? $10 service charge to pick up your passport instead of them mailing it to you (more of a federal issue), that double drivers liscence fee was bullshit too.

    Regardless of what you make, Toronto is by no means cheap.

  • mikey

    I love how the writer feels it is his right to own and live in a detached house right downtown in the largest city in the country.

    You are the average american who brought about this global recession, spending carelessly beyond your means without any sense of responsibility for your poor decisions.

    Who buys a house without a stable income?!

    If you work freelance why don’t you have at least a part time job? Why don’t you get TWO jobs to pay off your debts instead of pretending they don’t exist? It might be a tough year but it’s better than foreclosing when interest rates climb.

    I’ve just moved back to Toronto after living for in Sydney Australia for 5 years. Trust me, Toronto is quite affordable – but perhaps only for those applying their intelligence.

  • Omar

    The author is under serious delusions. His sense of entitlement knows no bounds. I am a would-be immigrant (came as an int’l student to U of T) from a very privileged background. I grew up with an army of servants – a live-in cook, 2 live-in maids, a gardener and a driver, at the very minimum – and yet when I graduated (in the middle of the mother of all recessions) 2 years ago, I did what any normal person would do – I moved into possibly the smallest place I have ever lived in (seriously, our servant quarters were bigger) because that was what I could afford! My parents can very easily afford giving me more than I earn (I earn $45k) even though they have two more kids who live in an even more expensive city – San Francisco. But they didn’t! They made it clear from example that one always has to live within their means and to save for the rainy day.

    Who goes out to buy organic groceries, CDs (seriously, who even buys CDs anymore) and books a flight to NYC, on an average Saturday? Here I am, making roughly the same amount of money and I’m busy furiously paying my credit card debt and making a financial plan on how to save up my money (because of uncertain times).

    Your comparison of money with Texas Hold ‘Em is both stupid and shocking! You don’t use Texas Hold ‘Em strategies to pay for your impending wedding reception and other big events in your life. If you can’t afford something DON’T BUY IT. How difficult is that to understand? Owning a house next to downtown Toronto isn’t a birth-right.

    In case you don’t know, or are plain oblivious, real-estate prices in Toronto are nowhere near what any major metropolis prices are in the world. Even in my home-country of Pakistan, real-estate is significantly more expensive. Don’t make a comparison with Mississauga or Milton because they are not BIG cities and they are certainly not catering to a world-class audience. Please, know your facts before going on a smug rant!

    Coming from a privileged background, if anybody should have a silver spoon in his mouth and a private-school-education-sense-of-entitlement-up-my-ass it should be me – even I am not that asinine as the author.

    P.S. I have never commented on magazine articles before this but the writer’s smug sense of entitlement has really compelled me to stop working on a Friday evening and give my two cents!

  • Ken

    Toronto is the most boring places I’ve ever lived or visited. It is lifeless. The women are extremely unfriendly.

    All of this would be true even if it were the cheapest place to live. So in my opinion it doesn’t matter how expensive it is.

  • meawer

    I think most of you entirely missed the point of this article; it was suupposed to get us thinking whether it is worth living in Toronto, not to give the guy financial advice. I doubt he even buys $6 bread, I think he was just trying to exemplify the abundence of choice that people living here have. However, to be honest, I don’t see that abundence. I am a student finishing university, and like all girls I like clothes and fashion and I must say there is a LACK of that in Toronto. And those few stores where we can find nice things to wear have insulting prices (think twice as much as in the States). I feel that I am taken for an idiot when asked to pay $200 for a shirt that I saw in an American magazine for $119. Has anyone noticed the difference in merchandise between even Zara here or the Zara in NY? not to mention H&M. Should Holt Renfrew still have a monopoly in this grand city we all love so much?
    On the other hand, it is understandable. Why whould designers set up shop in a city that until not so long ago was seen as a provincial, immigrant town? Do us immigrants need nice clothes? why, no, we should be happy we have running water. Nylon should suffice. This is just one example, and I am whinning about it because I suppose that at this point in my life it is the one thing that I am impacted by. I am not yet a home owner, nor do I buy furniture, so I can’t say much about that, though I know that my parents are currently in their 3rd month waiting for a dining room set to be shippied from the states, since buying something similar from toronto would have cost them almost twice as much.
    Truth be told, Toronto is a city in transition; while I am certain that in 10 years or so we will have less to complain regarding the lack of consumer goods or poor transit, right now Toronto is NOT worth living in. We pay more for less selection, for less service (why would retailers provide extra services when they have no competition?).

    As for the second last comment: I also went to U of T and every international student that I speak to tells me that they were a prince, or some poor political soul that had to run away from their country. Everywhere, there is this tendency to fabricate some glourious past, all to place themselves slightly above the rest of us. ‘why yes, I am just like you, I also live in a small rented place and count pennies, but my family is royalty, so even if you ever do become more successful, or really anything you do is still insignificant because,well I am still royalty’. Was ur family’s history really relevant to this article? May I suggest you write a memoir?
    Dealing with deluded people like that = con to living in toronto

  • Omar

    @Meawer.

    The point I was making wasn’t my the fact that my parents have done great for themselves or that I am somehow better than you. The point is CHOICE. Currently, on my salary, I can’t afford living in a better place, buying $6 olive boule or engaging in weekend sojourns to NYC – that is a CHOICE I am making. I too can max out my credit cards and line of credit to make all of this happen but I don’t want to go down that route. The author has a CHOICE not to buy $6 boule while he is practically broke and in fear of losing his house; you parents have a choice (and exercised that choice) in ordering the dining room set. If you have a set inferiority complexes that’s your problem – not mine!

    Toronto is an upcoming town of an upcoming country – Canada. Give it some time before going on a tangent and please compare apples with apples!

    Why do you want to compare Toronto to NY? NYC is multiple times bigger and the reason why prices are lower in the states has everything to do with a BIGGER MARKET SIZE than your immigrant status. It’s called economics (and federal taxation policies on various items) – you might have slept through that class but it’s what it boils down to at the end of the day. Again, stop living in the shadows of others, stop comparing yourself to others and LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS.

    At the end of the day, Toronto is going through some teething problems. Somethings are getting expensive but compared to most places we still have it way better. Real-estate, pricing, living conditions, quality of life is all way better than 99% of the places in the world.

    If you can’t afford buying something PLEASE DON’T. Your grandparents did the same thing, their parents did the same thing and (hopefully) your parents did the same thing and most of those generations turned out fine (hence, the current Canadian prosperity).

  • BM

    This locally ground trend is a form of narcissism. It’s the unlocally-grown system that gave you that grand opulence in the 90s and continues to support the middle-class. Pennies for produce, dollars for cotton shirts; you think these things exist when strawberry pickers get health insurance and a seamstress makes $10 an hour?a

    You want to give away your money on free-trade coffee and pay $6 on eggs? Then that’s charity. Have some tact and don’t brag about it.

    All these comments complain about the obviously occasional purchases of plane tickets and music. You let the author – and those like him – off far too easy.

    If even a fragment of your character is enhanced by eggs with multiple-brand names or bread sprinkled with self-righteousness, I !@#$%&* pray your wife is barren.

  • SEJJ

    It’s true–living in Toronto is ridiculously expensive, particularly when compared to living in less urbanized areas of Ontario (most of them on the brink of collapse due to the flight of the young to TO and other cities offering better employment prospects).

    However, I completely miss the author’s point in this piece–how can he argue that he knows virtually nothing about money (nor is he interested in learning about it), then go on to encourage the virtues of high taxation? When during the writing of this article did he suddenly become an economist? Does he know precisely how our municipal taxes are spent, dollar for dollar? Is there presumably no wasteful spending by government? Ever?

    One suggestion that might resolve the olive boule issue: read Potter & Heath’s book The Rebel Sell, followed by The Authenticity Hoax. Pure enlightenment for the neo-yuppie (read: hipster) generation.

  • Jason

    Great article. I’m a Canadian who moved down to the USA 2 years ago, only to find myself moving back to the beautiful, alive city of Toronto. To me, nothing compares to that city and I’ve traveled the world. I’m aware that I’ll be taking a pay cut to my American salary by working in Toronto, I’m aware that things will be more expensive to live in Toronto but after leaving it 2 years ago, after everything I’ve seen around the world, I realize what I had when I left and want it back now :)

  • irony

    Does iconice realize they are commenting on a TORONTO life article? How do you say a city sucks but you’re reading an article from a magazine on said city. You look like an idiot. And who says “hoser”? What a tool.

  • Ms.House

    We exited our beloved ‘TO’ when our first son was born. Our question at the time was: ‘Do we have a Registered Educational Savings Plan, or pay more in rent?’…
    We are not dissappointed with our hard decision as we now are able to afford our values. Like supporting Local Farmers and the lands they steward.
    The return to the land of manners and politeness is just a bonus. Where is this place? My secret….love love love, MS. HOUSE

  • peachy

    ok ok hands in pockets duke. yes, toronto is a tad more expensive – heavens know how toronto life was as cheap as it was for so long. we are slowly fleeing auckland – nothing is fast around here except for prices/ tax rises – but i could say ‘anywhere, new zealand’. if you need to compare to feel better look this way. for a lousy standard of living with extortionate costs this must be the poster child. in my experience toronto has something many other more ‘desireable’ cities dont and its infrastructure – its the little/ big things that make life bearable in contracting economic times and that is what you are paying for. you need to appreciate them.

  • Harrietta

    Really,is Toronto worth it?

    Everything is expensive in this town! You can’t go to a club unless you spend $20 (not including any drinks…). Alcohol is expensive as hell, no matter where you buy it, a rip off! People are extremely suspicious of foreigners. Employers fire you at will (totally inhuman. TTC expensive and crowded. The average person spends a lot on transporation, no matter how long he/she travels. Why not do like they do in China? They are so much more advanced over there. People pay according to the distance they travel. And how about all the losers in this town? using our downtown parks as shelters so that good people who paying their taxes are afraid to go! And the food or basic necessity such as milk, why is it so expensive?

    Really, I don’t think this town is worth it!

  • Andrew

    There are two main reasons why Toronto is so expensive: land use regulations and poor public transit. McGuinty passed the Greenbelt Act and Places to Grow Act in 2005 which restrict the supply of new single family houses in the suburbs, pushing up prices. Real estate speculators have in turn pushed up the prices of houses and condos in this city even more in response to the supply restrictions. Secondly, the transit system in Toronto sucks, so only a small part of the GTA can be reached within a 1 hour commute of downtown by public transit, mostly by TTC. (The GO trains and buses mostly run every hour off peak, so it take up to 2 hours to get from Union to some distant suburbs by transit outside rush hour, including waiting time, which is insane). It is nearly impossible to buy a house in a respectable neighbourhood less than 1 hour commute time by transit from downtown (excluding infrequent GO services) for less than $500,000. It is hard to find even a decent 2 bedroom condo for less than $350,000-400,000 without a long commute. Affordability is a serious problem even for people working in the suburbs, as many of the better suburbs such as Oakville and Markham are insanely expensive, traffic is horrible and people are forced to commute to even more distant suburbs to find affordable housing.

  • Me

    what’s olive boule? ;o)

  • Katie

    :As these different inlecfnues came collectively, a distinctly Cuban taste and model developed, which is reminiscent of nation peasant kinds of cooking by oral custom and eye, rather than relying on distinct measurements and the development of dishes that tend towards the uncomplicated and hearty, and that can be left on their unique to simmer. Fussy, major sauces are abnormal and deep-frying is just not a favored cooking system. The island nation, by natural means, uses a wonderful deal of seafood in its cuisine, which encourages the use of effortless cooking strategies and spicing that is meant to boost, not smother, all-natural flavors.

  • torontohell

    i make 50,000 net and i can’t buy a house in toronto, house prices have increased 50,000 dollars per year in the last 5 years. Something is not right here. We need affordable housing for all. How did this happen. i thought i would have a great life but now i don’t see that happen. many torontonians who are renting or living at home because they can’t purchase a house in toronto are not happy. quality of life is bad. How can a box house be 500,000 dollars when just 5 years ago it was 210,00 dollars. I kick myself for not buying a house 5 years ago, but back then i was in university studying working partime at a donut shop.

  • Jason

    I don’t think it’s worth it to live in toronto. I moved to barrie 2 years ago and since then life has been a lot more affordable and I’m not living on the edge anymore like I was in toronto. Whenever I go back to the city for a weekend to visit friends and family I easily blow hundreds of dollars in 3 days and I can’t seem to pinpoint where the money goes. But when I’m here in barrie, the same amount of money lasts me weeks. This is ridiculous! I think it’s time to say goodbye to the city people. What does toronto really have to offer that you can’t find in a small city like barrie? Besides, if you need to go there for any reason it’s only 75 mins away :P

  • Leslie
  • Brent

    Toronto is a 2nd-rate city with first-rate costs. I’ve lived in Montreal and NYC, and Toronto has few benefits over either of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=519746509 Rob Menard

    I could not stomach how expensive Toronto was, and saddled with that ridiculous private insurance scam for your car insurance, well I tried for 7 years and said the hell with it and moved back to Winnipeg. I went from 550 a month for car insurance to $55 a month and apartments here cost 600 a month. Food’s not much different in price, the only downside is the harsh winters, but our summers are a lot nicer and I don’t have to breath that aweful smog and my morning commute’s 15 minutes, and we have all the same big name stores as Toronto.

  • superherbie

    “Like a lot of people who don’t know a lot about money.” This is the issue worldwide. We are ruled by it, yet nobody really understands the basics. Where it comes from, how it it made and the cumulative effects over time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqvKjsIxT_8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfpO-WBz_mw

  • Bulder

    I have traveled and I can tell you that you are absolutely right about the women here . Even my wife noticed it . Why so much Femenism here , why so many unhappy girls . You don’t see people kissing or holding hands Toronto ,its rear. compere to Montreal or South America or Europa . A lot of miserable women here .We live downtown . Its horrible for a guy .They look at you like a Rapist . Very snotty and unfriendly women ,no aye contact ,never . A lot of guys are saying that . Travel and you see what I’m talking about .About the Asian people . Yes they are very different and very materialistic a lot of them and they do contribute great deal of the snootiness and bad wide of the city but I love Asian food . Which in Toronto is one of the best . For fast food Toronto is one of the best city’s . I can have amazing ‘Dragon Roll ‘ sushi for 7 $ if is to go or Kimchee with pork for lunch for 6.99$ with no (MSG’ ofcorse ,Koreans don’t use it ) Chines do. Some of the best Chinese restaurants are on Hwy 7 but I don’t eat Chinese anymore ,to grease to dip fried and they are not the most friendly people if you are not Asian so….no thax . If I ever become rich ,where would I live ???? Hm…. Europa ,Barcelona or Madrid or Valencia or Nice or Milano ( very good burgers in Barcelona -the best I ever had !! ) no question about it !!

  • Garrack

    I agree with Omar – live within your means. One of the examples given was buying a ticket. Save money where you can – Dont buy the expensive foods, turn down the heating, don’t waste water, walk more. Things like this can easily push your daily expenses down.

  • da Boss

    Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.

  • Kyle Kouppon

    I’m still in shock you make $6500 for this one article. I slaved away for 2 cents a word for months!

  • adorita

    You bought organic apples, free range eggs, and you are complaining on behalf of the middle class? #WhiteWhine

  • lookyhere

    Try 3rd rate. It’s also got to be the most borrrring place I’ve ever had to endure. The architecture: bland and dumpy. The people: catatonic. I personally think people should get paid to endure the environment of that disjointed collage of ugly buildings which the locals laughably refer to as a city. Call it a mental health stipend, if you will.

 

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