Tips for Living on a Low Budget – Part 1

Okay, you have taken the path to your dreams and being free.  You might be an actor, artist, or a dancer.  You might be the owner of the next great startup.  It doesn’t matter.  I congratulate you, and it’s much deserved as you are the spirit that drives change.  You create, extend boundaries, and promote culture, and add value to the world!

It is common for people with great ambition to have small bank accounts.  In many cases they are under financed.  If you are one of the many in this position, you’ll need to tighten your financial reigns.  The good news is you can still maintain a great standard of living!

Living well on a low budget requires focus in many areas:


1) Housing and Rent Tips

Keeping housing or rental costs down requires forethought and planning.  Because rent is a monthly expense, great care should be taken to find long-term housing.

  1. Share Housing Costs -Reduce your cost by sharing housing with one or more trusted friends, and focus on the word “trusted”.  Choose your room mates wisely and your life can be more enriched while saving you money on rent.
  2. Be a Caretaker – If you are  a nifty handy man, you could consider being a live-in caretaker.  You could enjoy greatly reduced rent or maybe even for live rent free.
  3. Choose the Right Neighborhood – Do some checking around before you settle down. Choose an area where the overall rent is low to begin with.
  4. Live Close to Amenities – Choose a place near grocery shopping,  a post office, swimming pool, fitness centre, parks, and bus stop.  This will reduce needless transportation costs.
  5. Bundle Services – Save on your budget by choosing a rental bundle that includes cable, hydro, internet, and laundry if you can.
  6. Switch Cable and Internet Providers – Switch service providers when special promotions arise.  Change account names to a roommates name if necessary.
  7. Negotiate your Rent – Don’t just settle for the asking price.  See if the landlord is open to reducing the rental asking price.  By asking you might save as much as $70 a month which would net you a savings of $840 per year!
  8. Sign a Lease – Although a lease is binding, consider it protection for both you and your landlord.  Sign a one year lease and protect yourself from a sudden rent increase.  Your landlord will be happy that they are not searching for tenants for at least a year.  Ask for a small discount for locking in for a year.
  9. Request a Credit for Broken Stuff – If something breaks, like the refrigerator, ask for a credit on your rent to make up for eating out costs until it is replaced.

2) Banking & Savings Tips

I’m the first to agree that it’s nice to be greeted by a friendly teller at a brick and mortar bank institution. But, consider this.  If time is money, then why not choose an online service?  Online services provide all the products of the “physical” banks and it’s free!

Save travel time, standing in line, and travel time back.  What is an hour of YOUR TIME worth to you?  Why not consider using a service like Tangerine?  Here are some of the ways Tangerine goes easy on your budget:


  1. Monthly fees – free
  2. Chequeing fees – free
  3. Over limit transaction fees – free
  4. Interest for your Tangerine savings account
  5. Credit card – free
  6. Credit Card Annual Fees – free
  7. 2% cash back on all purchase made on your credit card

3) Tips for Keeping Food Costs Down

Vancouver offers many ways to save money on food.  In some cases you can get food for free!  You’ll most likely have a fridge, but it’s a good idea to have freezer space as this can help save you money.  Here’s a few ways to save on groceries.  Some you may know already and some may surprise you.

  1. No-Frills Weekly Flyer – is great place to shop for stuff.  There prices are great to begin with, but they put selected items on sale from time to time.  For example, just last week I noticed a great “special”.  Maple Leaf bacon that usually sells for $6 was put on special for just $1.50 with a limit of 2 packages per patron.  These sorts of sales happen all the time!  Check their website to see their free weekly flyer.  Good deals to be found!

2. Buy Day Old Goods – To tell you the truth, I think we are a little spoiled in this utopia called Vancouver.  I have eaten day old bread, donuts, and other baked goods a few times.  I don’t taste much difference.  Many places discount their day old goods greatly.  If you’re not fussy and could use the savings, why not?  If it’s late night, and I’ve got the munchies, I really do not care if that chocolate eclair is a day old!

3. Use a Grocery List – Never walk into a grocery store without a clear-cut list of what you want to buy when you’re there. Leave a store list on the table or stuck to your fridge and build your list by adding items that are running in short supply. Refer to grocery store flyers and add sale items.  When you shop, buy only what is on the list!

4. Make Fewer Trips to the Grocery Store – Every time we make a trip to the grocery store, it consumes time and energy.  And although we have a list, we inevitably buy stuff that’s not on the list.  By making fewer trips, we wasted less time and energy and buy less stuff we don’t need.

5. Search Craiglist – Check out the Free Stuff.  From time to time warehouses will clear out their old or slow moving stock.  They will literally give stuff away for free.  Sometimes the items are close to being stale dated but are well withing the deadline date.

6. Nexus Pass – If you live in the Vancouver area, you might think about getting a Nexus Pass.  You can then buy groceries just across the border in Blaine for a fraction of what we pay here.  Combine your trip with gas purchases and you will find yourself saving a lot of cash.

7. Start A Garden – If you have a green thumb and a bit of land, why not grow some of your food?  In your garden or in pots, all sorts of stuff can be grown.  Peas, strawberries, cabbage, radishes, potatoes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash are just a few things that can be grown easily.  If you want to spice things up, you can even grow basil, oregano, rosemary, chives, chili peppers, and sweet red, yellow, or green peppers.

8. Learn to Cook with Pantry Staples – You can make yummy and nutritious meals out of many staples. Stock up on beans, rice, spices, and so on, and they’ll make for the backbone of anything you might want to make.  A great place to get recipes is

9.  Make Your Own Frozen Dinners – Take advantage of discounted prices at warehouse stores sale items from grocery stores to purchase ingredients to pre-make meals that you can store in the freezer.  Just pull them out as you need them!

10. Make Meals in Advance. If a meal can easily be prepared and then frozen at some later point in the preparation process, make two or three extras when you make the main meal and pop them in the freezer.

4) Tips for Cheap or Free Fun & Games

All work and no play make Jack and Jacky dull, right? We all need a little down time, but for those who have the energy, there is lots to do.  The trick is to explore the many things to do without paying an arm and a leg.  Here are just a few ideas on how to have loads of fun on a low budget!

  1. Craigslist – Check it out often for free or discounted coupons, tickets and passes.  You’ll find rounds of golf, fair passes, concert tickets, plays, and events for free or next to nothing.

  1. – All sorts of free event tickets can be found here under “Free Events”.  If you’re a video gamer, check under “Video Gaming” and you might just find yourself a great first person zombie shooter game for free!
  2. BC Ballet – Our local ballet company will do free performances every once in a while.  Get on their newsletter and stay posted!
  3. VSO – the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra holds a yearly free concert at Deer Lake in Burnaby.  It is a  great way to soak in some culture while taking in the nature that surrounds the venue.
  4. Cirque de Soleil – Has free promo shows on occasion.  In the past, free shows have been advertised in the Georgia Strait.
  5. Facebook – Learn about free events taking place in and around Vancouver.  Just log in to your Facebook account and subscribe to Vancouver Events.
  6. Twitter – Learn about free events in and around Vancouver by logging in to your Twitter account and add Van City Buzz to your twitter feed.

5) Geting Free Stuff

A Strategy for Getting Miscellanious Goods for Free

  1. Craigslist – It’s a great place to find near new stuff.  All things from cameras, furniture, fixtures, art supplies, HD TVs, fridges, etc.  It’s a great place to shop and if you’re patient, you can get exactly what you want from time to time in the freebies section.
  2. – This is where people post free stuff in lots of categories.  Here’s the kind of free stuff you can find.  Antiques, arts & crafts, beauty & health stuff, bikes, books, cars, CDs / DVDs / VHS, cell phones, household stuff, jewelry, music stuff, photo and video stuff, free services, sports goods, tools, toys & games.
  1. Yard Sales – From Spring to Fall when the weather’s nice, yard sales are a great way to pass the time. Bargain.  It’s part of the fun!
  2. Value Village – A great place to pick up great clothes and other nick knacks.  The law provides that all stock is laundered and cleaned before it hits the racks, so you can rest assured they are clean.
  3. Salvation Army Stores – A great place to find stuff for cheap!

6) Pro Services for Free or Cheap

Professional Photography Services  – Buckashot Headshot Photography Studio –  is a top quality headshot photo studio.  They provide the best quality, service and pricing for headshots for actors, models, business people, realtors, websites, and social media apps. They are located near downtown on a major bus route and have free parking.


Legal Aid – Low Cost and Free – The Canadian Bar Association – the Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical info on many areas of law in BC. Script 430 gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.

In Part 2 you will learn helpful tips about:

  1. Where to find Loans, Grants, & Funding for Artists, Business, Non-Profits, & Charities
  2. Tips for Making Extra Income from being a Work for Hire
  3. Making Income from Repairing, Recycling, and Re-Selling
  4. Saving Money on Transportation
  5. Saving Money on Car Expenses & Insurance
  6. Saving on Fuel Costs for your Car

About the Author

This blog was written by Trevan Wong aka “Bucky” and friends of Buck A Shot Photo Studio in Vancouver, BC Canada.
Supplemental information re:  Tangerine – provided by Alphonse Leong.

Trevan is regarded among the best actor headshot photographers in Vancouver.  His body of commercial work consists of over 20,000 headshot sessions, fashion shoots, and advertising and product shoots since 1980.

When not shooting commercially, Trevan works on photographic art and songwriting.  His art is collected worldwide and his worked has displayed at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Robson Square Media Centre, and The Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre. As a songwriter, Trevan’s songs have made it on several indie artist’s CDs, on Itunes, in documentaries, and full length feature films.

trevan_wong headshot photographer vancouver

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