Money

What it’s like to live on minimum wage in Toronto

When I first moved to Toronto in 2012, the minimum wage in Ontario was $11.40 CAD per hour.

On January 1st, 2018, it was raised to $14.00 CAD per hour. It was set to be raised again on January 1st, 2019, to $15.00 CAD per hour, but our little buddy, the current Premier of Ontario, got that cancelled. Thanks champ.

Apparently fast food and coffee shop workers, retail workers, delivery drivers, airport workers, office admins, social media managers, program coordinators, transport workers, clerks, many other entry level jobs and even some semi-skilled jobs that people actually go to school for are just expected to live paycheque to paycheque.

Here is what life is like living on $14 an hour in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

At $14 an hour working full time, the annual salary ($14 x 40 hours x 52 weeks) would be $29,120 CAD before taxes and deductions.

After taxes and deductions, it’s $24,088, or $11.58 per hour, or $2007 a month.

Now, let’s crunch some numbers.

How much is your rent?

First of all, forget living on your own, ever. We already know the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in this city is around $2200.

Even if you found one of those hidden gem/pretend apartments/illegal basements on the cheap, the rent would still be roughly $1000 a month, which would leave you $1007 to live on for 30 days. That’s cool if you want to stay inside your home and never do anything ever, because you’ll soon see that $1007 doesn’t give you much wiggle room here.

The absolute cheapest rent I have seen advertised in Toronto is about $600. That’s for a room in a shared house and may or may not include utilities (water/heat/hydro) and internet.

Ok so now you have $1407 per month left.

Now you need to get around.

If you take only public transit, and never use cabs/uber, it’s $151.15 a month.

Now you have $1255.85 left.

You can skip the monthly transit cost if you own a bike and are willing to bike everywhere you need to go. But bear in mind that for at least 2 months it will be really hard/dangerous to bike because of ice and snow. If you’re working full time, you need to get to your job every day, so paying for individual rides 5 days a week will cost the same as a pass and limit you from travelling on your days off.

Considering land lines barely exist anymore, you’ll want to get a phone.

If you already own a phone (maybe some kind soul gifted you their old smartphone), you can go on a BYOP plan for about $40 a month. General data usage guidelines estimate that normal data users (email, social media, and web browsing – including using maps) should have about 2GB per month. Go over that and you’re looking at a hefty fee.

Oh, you were happier in 1996 and don’t want mobile internet? Okay. You still need to be able to talk and text. And if you hate people and want to live in a black hole, you can go phone-less.

But remember there is a huge correlation between loneliness and depression, so…. maybe reconsider owning a friendship device a.k.a a cell phone.

Plus, you will never be able to get out of your minimum wage job if you don’t have a contact number to give prospective employers. So, yes, you need a phone.

You won’t need to get your own home internet if it’s included in your rent.

So now you have $1215.85 left.

Hopefully you don’t have any other recurring expenses, especially not debts, to pay with this money.

How are you going to use the rest of your monthly balance?

Food?

Let’s say you were as cheap as possible with your food (based on 30 days).

  • Breakfast – 2 eggs : 12 eggs for $2.99 x 5 dozen a month = $14.95
  • Lunch: A peanut butter sandwich: 3 bags of bread (20 slices each makes 10 sandwiches for 30 days) at $2 each loaf =$6. One large jar of peanut butter = $5
  • Dinner: Baked beans. $1 per can per day = $30

Total per month on the most pathetic diet ever: $52.95

You now have $1,162.90 for the entire month. That’s $38.73 per day (based on 30 days). If you have to buy anything at all that’s not the basic survival necessities, or if you want to eat like you’re not in kindergarten, that figure quickly turns to zero.

What about doing something other than travelling to and from work, being at work, and going to sleep after work? Dare to dream!

Sure, you can do free stuff! But remember, it’s cold for 6 months here, so you have to find indoor free stuff. You can’t really hang out in parks much. Try the library… at least until they are no longer financially operable or they have to start charging people to continue operation, because our little buddy, the Premier, cut funding for those too!

But I shall demonstrate what having a tiny bit of a life looks like:

  • Order one pizza a month -$20 = $1,142
  • Have a “good” coffee once week -$20 = $1122
  • Meet friends for drinks once a month and have 2 of the cheapest drinks on the menu -$20 = $1,102
  • Buy a takeout lunch at work once a month because your lunch was gross/you forgot to pack/you were too lazy/your glass container broke/everyone else is going and you don’t want to be antisocial – $15 = $1,087
  • Wake up with a cold but can’t call in sick so must buy the cheapest cold n flu tablets and a packet of cough drops on the way to work – $11.62 = $1075.38
  • Sign up for Netflix because you’re bored as hell from not having a life -$9.99 = 1065.39
  • Have an emotional breakdown and eat a tub of Ben & Jerry’s because you’re so depressed about having no life – $7.99 = $1057.40
  • Get invited to a birthday dinner and drinks – $50 = $1007.40
  • Wear killer shoes to birthday and have to Uber home – $20 = $987.40
  • Join gym ’cause getting fat from all the pizza and ice cream and it’s too cold for four months of the year to go for a run – $20 a month = $967.40

Yes, according to this list (which is a little farcical but not totally unrealistic) you still have nearly $1000 left each month, but remember the numbers are based on the cheapest possible rent and phone bill, and a silly amount of food with no variety and very little nutrition.

What about actual necessities?

Toilet paper? Dish soap and other cleaning supplies? Laundry detergent? Toiletries? Personal care and grooming? Clothing? Medical expenses that aren’t covered by OHIP? Etc, etc, etc.

If you don’t see how difficult it is, think of it this way.

There’s the cost of living, and then there’s the cost of existing. Minimum wage pays you enough to exist. Not to live.

But I guess it depends on what you need to feel like you’re living. If you moved here on a working holiday visa, you may miss the holiday part because you’ll mostly be working to live.

But for others, this amount of money might be the best thing that ever happened to them and they’re incredibly grateful.

If you do manage to save some of this money, you’ll probably have to dip in to it at some point and it won’t be long-term savings. More like short-term back-up funds.

I will buy a house one day. I will buy a house one day. I will buy a house one day.

And maybe more than 3 outfits?

The world is your oyster. Toronto on a minimum wage? Not so much.

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