Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Canadian sticker shock

**disclaimer: The current exchange rate of CAD to USD is 0.997:1.000 as of this posting, so they're basically interchangeable**

Maybe it's because this is a city, and maybe it's because this is Canada, but the prices on things here are astronomically higher than things in the States, some in excess of 100% higher.  I almost fainted dead away in the grocery store. 

The items that I have noticed have the most price inflation over those in the U.S. are animal products.  The cheapest cut of chicken (or, even a whole chicken) here is still more expensive per pound than boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the States.  Butter and milk are both over twice as expensive, and cheese is getting up there.  Beef is a bit more comparable, but still expensive.  Same with pork.  Fish isn't quite as bad either, but honestly, it makes me a bit more inclined to become a vegetarian.  2 pounds of lentils were only $2.99 after all, and still a good source of protein....

Produce is surprisingly not really more than in the States, and some things are cheaper, depending on where you go.  I live in a very Bangladeshi- and Pakistani-concentrated area, so there are tiny markets with cheap produce and items like Basmati rice that I frequently eat.  Bread is pretty comparable to the States, and thankfully you can get coupons for many personal care items.

For many items, such as electronics and furniture, you're hit with an automatic 13% Harmonized Sales Tax on top of them just being more expensive in Canada.  I have been told by multiple sources that the only good time to buy electronics in Canada is during the Boxing Day sales (their version of Black Friday).  The HST also takes effect for bills, and it makes me glad all my utilities are included with rent.  It also makes me glad I moved a bunch of my furniture that I had initially regretted moving, because replacing it would have been a lot more expensive here.

Canadian Post is also more expensive.  To mail a package of about 1 pound in weight to the States cost $14.  Compound that with higher gas prices ($4.20 USD/gallon), higher car insurance (100% more), $2+ extra for books, and many other little fees, and yes, it is definitely more expensive to live in Canada.  Luckily, if I really need something, I can get it shipped to a friend's house in the States and then go pick it up when I visit.  This is a little luxury that I didn't think I'd take advantage of much, but now I am really considering it!


  1. Welcome to Canada Kristin, get used to it, unfortunately. Single-payer Health Care ain't cheap :-( Everything is more expensive, but thankfully less so than it was 5 years ago when the exchange rate was ~0.75/1 USD. You also happen to be living in the most expensive part of the country too. It's not so bad when your living expenses are way less than US prices. When I moved from Hamilton to Washington DC, my rent almost doubled :-(

  2. I go the vegetarian route at home. Boyfriend? Not so much. I don't cook meat at home. I do most of my groceries at the Real Canadian Superstore, and sometimes the prices between them and Loblaws aren't too different. I used to get organic milk, so I'm used to the sticker price, but yes, it is very expensive. My car insurance is more than 2X of what I paid in the States and I have no friends in Michingan I could ship things to. Yes, Canada Post bites you in the behind wiht the prices for everything. Since I moved from the BFs tiny 1BR apartment to a different one on the biolding next door I wanted to fwd my mail to the new one. Almost 50$ to fwd mail a few metres away. I'm sure I lost a thing or two that were sort of important. But I wasn't going to pay them that. It is very, very expensive to live here. I wrote a post about my expenses and taxes in the US vs here.

  3. @Carlo: Thanks for the welcome! My rent here is actually cheaper here in TO than it was in the middle of Pennsylvania (go figure) because here, the utilities are included. I feel you on the D.C. thing. Rent would have been twice as much as here in Toronto, though I would have been making a lot more, too.

    @28: I'm lucky, I have friends and fam in Michigan, upstate NY, AND Pennsylvania! The forwarding fee is certainly obnoxious. I don't know if you observed this in the U.S., but USPS forwards mail to Canada free! And there is such a thing as a free checking account in the States, and.... I could go on and on. It is definitely a nice chunk of change to live here.

  4. Hey Kristin! So in other words, meat is not so insanely cheap in Canada as in the US. :) Good! I find it absolutely mind boggling that here in the US you can buy a pound of chicken for less than a pound of apples. Something is not right there. I mean, apples grow on trees, chicken, you have to feed them, shelter them, dress them, etc...