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With the cost of rent, food and so many other living expenses on the rise, how much does it cost to thrive in a big city?

The answer for Toronto is $61,654 after taxes, or roughly $76,000 in gross income. If you make that much, you can cover your rent, food, transportation and entertainment costs, and save for the future.

This income estimate comes from a study by the Wellesley Institute called Thriving in the City: Single Working Age Adults – What does it cost to live a healthy life? Its purpose is to document the difference between what people have in income and what they need to thrive. The study notes that the $16.55 per hour minimum wage in Ontario would produce an after-tax income of $25,994 for someone working 35 hours per week.

Here’s how spending was broken down in the study:

  • $22,342 to cover housing: Includes a one-bedroom apartment with monthly rent of $1,750.70, plus other costs like tenant insurance (the rent data comes from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.).
  • $15,483 for savings and debt repayment: Includes student debt repayment, plus general and retirement savings; retirement savings were set at 20 per cent of annual expenses to account for the lack of home equity.
  • $7,356 for social participation: Social outings, subscriptions, dining out, hobbies and travel.
  • $5,310 for food: Includes the cost of a healthy diet.

The rest of the $61,654 goes to transportation, health and personal care and professional development, including continuing education. If you make less than that amount, the obvious place to cut back is saving.

The biggest cost of the recent inflationary surge and high housing costs just might turn out to be that people couldn’t save. Where will that leave them in the decades to come?

We want to hear from you

The Globe’s Paycheque Project is a non-judgmental look at how much young adults in Canada are earning and how they are spending that money, from housing and transportation to eating out and vacations, and finally debt repayment and savings. Here are some recent profiles

If you are under 40 and are open to sharing the details of your own personal financial situation, e-mail personal finance editor Roma Luciw at

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

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The only thing worse is a renoviction notice

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A moving story about pre-paid funeral plots

An Ontario couple pays more than $24,000 for a cemetery plot, and later moved to a different city. They asked for a refund and were told it wasn’t possible. If you prepay for a funeral or burial plot, always ask about the refund policy.

Ask Rob

Q: Have you tried Tangerine for high interest savings? I just called and they gave me 4.75 per cent for five months. Two days before that upcoming expiry date in July, I will call and they’ll offer me another similar rate. And so on.

A: Tangerine’s regular rate is low at 0.7 per cent. Readers have had some success rolling over bonus rate offers from Tangerine, but I suspect a lot of people are getting substandard interest when their bonuses expire. For my own savings, I prefer banks with a consistently good rate available to everyone. I don’t want to have to call in a few months to ask for another rate bonus.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Tools, explainers, guides and charts

A review of personal finance and budgeting apps and software specifically for Canadians.

The Money-Free Zone

A 2023 album I’m just catching up to now is Nothing’s Gonna Stand in My Way Again, by Lydia Loveless. A raunchy blend of roots, country and rock, with lyrics that bite. A good song to start with is Sex and Money – “that’s all I think about.”

On social media

A take on X about investors feeling more conservative and less risk-tolerant from someone in the investment industry

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More Rob Carrick and money coverage

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