It’s no secret that living in Toronto can be expensive. Here are some tips that I’d like to share with you on saving money while having fun in Toronto:
- If you’re a carnivore, fresh meat is almost always cheaper (and healthier) than pre-prepared or frozen meat. You will always get more protein per dollar spent if you purchase fresh meat and take some time to prepare and cook it yourself. For example, if you like eating chicken, why buy frozen pre-cooked chicken breasts at M&M Meat Market when you can buy fresh boneless chicken breasts at Metro or No Frills? Why buy frozen hamburger patties when you can purchase fresh ground beef and take some time to make your own beef patties?
- If you like eating fruits and vegetables, you’ll be hard pressed to find lower prices than in an Asian grocery store. The largest one in Toronto is T&T Supermarket, and although their prices are still competitive, they have steadily creeped up since they were acquired by Loblaws in 2009. If you live in Toronto centre, check out the Asian grocery stores in downtown Chinatown, specifically on the east side of Spadina Avenue, north of Queen and south of Dundas.
- Religiously follow the online weekly deals at No Frills, Metro, Loblaws, Sobeys (or go to Smartcanucks to see all these grocery flyers in one place). These stores will regularly choose to sell an “item of the week” at a heavily discounted price in order to get you into their store hoping that you’ll purchase other items you don’t really need. The item of the week is considered a “loss leader” to get you to do just that. So you’ll need to keep this in mind – it’s a marketing trick.
- If you need to purchase vitamins or other supplements as well as organic foods and snacks, you can do no better than checking out Essence of Life Organics located at the Kensington Market. This is a family-owned natural food market with amazing prices.
- If you buy groceries in bulk, you won’t get a better deal than buying them at Costco. Yes, you need to purchase a membership card starting at $60 per year, but with that membership you can get a Capital One card that has no annual membership fee which provides you with 3% cashback on restaurant purchases, 2% cashback on gas purchases and 1% cashback on everything else.
- If fast food is your thing, take advantage of some great deals from McDonalds. If you complete an online survey about the quality of their service (you’ll need to enter information found on your sales receipt), McDonalds will provide you with an online coupon that provides a significant discount towards your next purchase of a meal combo (i.e., burger, fries and soft drink).
- If you’re a regular coffee drinker, McDonalds will provide you with a free medium coffee for every six coffees you purchase. The quality of the McCafé coffees are quite good and are much less expensive than Starbucks.
Notwithstanding the last two points, minimize eating outside the home, because getting the same quantity of food is so much more expensive than preparing it yourself. I do understand that for some, dining out is a social ritual, but why would that prevent you from having your friend come over to your place so you can cook for her? And why would that prevent you from going over to your friend’s place and having her cook for you?
- The nice thing about Toronto is that it has an extensive cycling network. Therefore, commuting from one part of the city to another by bicycle is a simple and pleasant experience. And it’s free!
- If you drive, the only place you should be purchasing your gas is at Costco. As mentioned above, you’ll need to purchase a membership card, but Costco gas is usually cheaper by up 10 cents per litre compared to Shell or Esso. Therefore, you’ll recover your membership fee in no time since the cost savings are so significant. Also, as indicated above, the gas you charge on your Costco Capital One will go towards 2% cashback points that you can redeem at the end of the year.
- The Art Gallery of Ontario has some incredible deals for visitors. They have free visits to their collection galleries every Wednesday from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Moreover, if you’re 25 and under, you can visit the AGO for free all year round.
- OCAD University’s Onsite Gallery located at 199 Richmond Street West is a free gallery of exhibitions by professional artists OCAD students. It’s an amazing gallery with changing exhibits. It’s a small place but the pieces in the gallery are really great. Worth a drop in if you’re ever around the area.
- If going to see movies at the cinema is your thing, you can get a discounted movie tickets of up to 18% if you’re a CAA member.
- If you like reading books as a pastime, why purchase them when you can borrow them at the Toronto Public Library? It won’t cost you anything to get a library card and the TPL has an excellent selection of titles. In addition to books, here’s what else you can do with a Toronto Library Card:
- borrow 619 Criterion Collection DVDs, stream 50 of the most popular
- free streaming of 30,000 documentaries and international films
- free access to online learning services (Lynda, O’Reilly, Mango Languages, BrainFuse, etc.)
- free access to academic publications and research databases like JSTOR
- free access to 5,000 physical and digital comic books (DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, etc.)
- free access to major newspapers (Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, NY Times, Washington Post, etc.)
- free access to online magazines (Maclean’s, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Reader’s Digest, New York Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Chatelaine, Esquire, Car & Driver, Bloomberg Business, Consumer Reports, etc.)
- free access to museums and other attractions (AGO, ROM, Ontario Science Centre, Aga Khan,Toronto Zoo, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Royal Conservatory of Music, CanStage, etc.)
- low-cost print-your-own paperback books
- borrow musical instruments and Arduino kits
- maker spaces with 3D printers, sewing and embroidery machines, music studios, and video production facilities
- call 416-395-5400, listen to a story in your choice of 16 languages!
- borrow a wi-fi hotspot with unlimited data access for six months
That’s it for now. I will update this post on a regular basis if I come across any more deals and savings tips.