The common perception is that country living is the cheaper choice, but is this really true? Is it cheaper to live in a city or a country? I decided to do some research to find out.

How much do you pay for housing? If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about this everyday. But it can be a big factor when you’re buying a house or apartment. It doesn’t matter where you live–your utility bills, taxes, and grocery bills can vary a lot depending on where you live. That’s why it’s important to find out where “cheaper” places are to live.

The real cost of living in different regions of the world is measured in two ways:  money and time. Here’s why. Money  Money is a measure of the amount of wealth available for spending, that is, the ability to purchase goods and services. It is a measure of how much wealth is available for spending on goods and services, and is expressed in units of currency. Monetary wealth is different to the amount of money held by a household or individual. Time  Time is the period during which an event occurs, or an activity takes place, and is measured in units of time. Time is used to distinguish between events that occur at different times. Time is also used to determine how long events last. This is. Read more about city life vs country life and let us know what you think.

When I was 25, I was in debt. After graduation, my future didn’t look too bright. The competition for good jobs was very high, and I had a hard time finding work even though I had a master’s degree in social work. Burdened by student loans and credit card bills, I expanded my search beyond Toronto. Then I found my dream job. The job was not only attractive, but also offered an above average salary, an expense account and more responsibility than any other entry-level position in Toronto. What’s the catch? The post was at Fort Frances, a town of 8,000 in northwestern Ontario, an area 1,600 kilometres north of Toronto. There was no movie theater, a Tim Hortons, several restaurants and many lakes with phenomenal fishing opportunities. It was a five-hour drive to the nearest big city, on a remote road populated by elk. Although I am a dedicated city person, I accepted the job when it was offered to me. Many doubted my decision, but it turned out to be a good one. I had a good income and rented a big apartment on the lake for only $550 a month. By living in a small town, I was able to get out of debt in two years and even accumulate a considerable amount of money. I don’t think that would have happened if I had stayed in town. Before you plan your move to Shitts Creek, you need to know what you are getting into. Is the cost of living always lower in rural areas than in the city? Now that I’ve done both, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of living in the city and in the suburbs and compare some common costs so you can make an informed decision.

Why do Canadians settle in small towns and rural areas?

If you think it’s better to live in the city than in the country, you’re not alone. Canadians are leaving big cities in record numbers for greener pastures. Between July 2019 and July 2020, Canada’s three largest cities – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver – will experience mass migration of city dwellers to suburbs, small towns and rural communities. According to Statistics Canada, 87 444 people left the Tri-Cities for other parts of the same province, with younger Canadians leading the way with 82% of those under the age of 45. In fact, small towns, cottage communities and rural communities across the country are experiencing a boom in home sales. The Kawartha Lakes Real Estate Association has seen a 43% increase in property sales in February 2021. Nova Scotia’s population has reached a record high, thanks in part to immigration from Ontario and Alberta. But what is the reason for this urban flight? Although this trend began before COVID, the pandemic has fueled the fire. Isolated at home, Canadians suddenly crave more space and leave the expensive city centres to get it. Add to that the ability to work from anywhere (hello waterfront patio!), and it’s no wonder so many Canadians choose the suburban lifestyle. Some people buy a holiday home, others leave the city for good. But before you order a moving truck, let’s take a step back. Both urban and suburban living come with certain costs, which we will discuss in more detail below.

Cost of living Town and Country

First, I can’t cover all aspects of urban and rural life, so I’ll focus on some general household expenses. Whatever lifestyle you choose, you are bound to find costs that I have not described here. Second, let’s talk about terminology. This article is about the cost of living in small towns and rural communities in Canada, which has been kept intentionally vague. Labels like remote, rural, cottage, big city and small town are subjective. Thunder Bay, for example, may seem small or remote compared to the giants of Toronto or Vancouver. But when I lived in Fort Frances, I imagined the city as a metropolis full of amenities and services. Conclusion? There is no one universally accepted definition of a big city, a small town or a rural community in Canada. I’m also not going to talk about the shift of urban life to the suburbs or cities in central Canada, and the Canadian north is a whole different matter. Now that I’ve denied responsibility, let’s move on.


The increase in affordable housing is perhaps the main reason why city dwellers are flocking to the countryside. For many Canadians, living in big cities has become too expensive. In March 2021, the average house price in Canada rose 31.6% from 12 months earlier. Due to the supply war and skyrocketing home prices, home ownership has become a pipe dream for many young people in Canada.

Housing costs in medium and large Canadian cities


City Population Average rent Average cost of primary real estate
Toronto, ON 3,042,042 $1,523 $941,145
Montreal, QC 1,844,197 $891 $498,885
Calgary, AB 1,386,378 $1,195 $459,411
Ottawa, ON 1,032,820 $1,358 $511,718
Winnipeg, MB 778,602 $1,107 $306,123
Vancouver, BC 682,404 $1,508 $1,393,879
Halifax, NS 443,976 $1,170 $314,548
Regina, SC 246,955 $1,061 $306,383
St. John’s, EN 112,115 $902 $304,743

Sources: CMHC’s January 2021 Rental Market Report, Maclean’s 2021 Canada’s Best Communities and CMHC’s Housing Market Information Portal. The rental market in the big cities is not much better. For example, the average rent in Toronto is currently $1,523 per month, according to CMHC. Now compare that to Norfolk County, a rural area in southwestern Ontario, where the average rent is $773 per month!

Housing costs for small urban/rural communities in Canada


City Population Average rent Average cost of primary real estate
Norfolk County, ON 67,498 $773 $379,863
Salmon Arm, British Columbia 19,438 $877 $417,064
Fold, MB 14,728 $770 $222,155
Summerside, PEI 15,788 $846 $178,036
Gaspé, QC 14,575 $593 $163,324
Truro, NS 12,490 $854 $196,992
Le Ould de la Madeleine, QC 11,924 $854 $154,807

Sources: CMHC’s January 2021 Rental Market Report, Maclean’s 2021 Canada’s Best Communities and CMHC’s Housing Market Information Portal. The same goes for purchasing: A home in Vancouver or Toronto costs up to $1 million, while the average first home in beautiful Summerside, P.E.I. costs just $178,036. As a result, some Canadians are leaving urban centres and looking elsewhere for more affordable housing. Conclusion: It’s not difficult. Whether you rent or buy, if you live in a small town or rural area in Canada, you’re likely to save a lot of money on housing. Think of all those extra dollars you could have put into a TFSA or RRSP investment account!


Comparing transportation costs is not an easy task. On the one hand, villagers will not spend money on a public transport ticket. But because the equipment is often spread out, you will need to have a car, which means spending money on car loan repayments, gas, insurance and car maintenance. I use myself as an example. In Fort Frances, I paid $50 a month for car insurance and about $200 a month for gas. Fortunately, I didn’t have to pay off the car loan because I inherited a garage from my dad, but I did have to spend about $1500 a year to fix that piece of junk. After returning to Toronto, I gave up the car and opted for public transportation. At the time, a TTC subscription cost about $1,400 per year (it’s more expensive today). Then everything changed again when I moved to Hamilton, which is considered one of the best areas in Ontario, and bought a car. I now spend almost $10,000 a year on transportation. When I started doing the math, I found that my transportation costs were (surprisingly!) the lowest when I lived in Toronto without a car:

Comparison of annual transport costs Lisa


Expenditure Fort Frances, OH (with machine) Toronto, ON (no car) Hamilton, OH (with machine)
Repayment of car loan $0 $0 $6,600
Insurance $600 $0 $1,400
Gas $2,400 $0 $900
Maintenance and repair $1500 $0 $500
Public transport card $0 $1,400 $0
Total $4,500 $1,400 $9,400

What is the lesson to be learned from this? Transportation costs depend largely on where you live and your situation. Do you need a car or can you rely on public transport? Do you make long trips on the highway? What is the interest rate on your car loan? All of this will have an impact on your monthly expenses. Car insurance rates also tend to be higher in urban areas because there are more vehicles on the road (and therefore more likely to be involved in an accident). Insurers also take into account car theft statistics, which can be higher in urban areas (but not always). And one more thing: Fuel prices fluctuate across the country, so be sure to compare gas prices. Take, for example, the price of gas in Thunder Bay versus Toronto.

Toronto Petrol Prices

word-image-1986 Image source: CAA Gas prices

Thunder Bay Petrol Prices

word-image-1987 Image source: CAA Gas prices Conclusion: In general, living without a car is probably cheaper in a city with a well-developed public transport system.

Grocery store

Costs for this category are also difficult to determine, as there is little data available on annual household spending on food in different communities across Canada. But I can tell you this: Available research shows that the cost of food is higher in remote and rural areas. One example is my old acquaintance, Northwestern Ontario, which has been called the region with the most expensive food basket in Ontario. On average, a family of four in Kenora and Rainy River County spends $1,912.68 more than a family in Toronto. Since this is 2016 data, the cost will be even higher now. word-image-1988 Image source: Nordic Policy Institute What’s behind all this? First, it is more expensive to transport products over long distances via isolated routes – a cost that is passed on to the consumer. Another reason is the lack of competition. When I lived in Fort Frances, there was a Safeway store and several smaller stores. Less choice meant paying as much as the stores were asking. You can’t just shop around for the best deal, which means you have to pay the cost (literally). Food security is a particular concern for northern Canada and remote communities, where food often has to be flown in or transported on icy roads. That’s why some residents pay $7 for three bananas and $20 for a hamburger patty, and why the federal government offers these isolated communities food subsidies. Living in a rural area can also provide access to local farms, fisheries, food suppliers and meat producers. In Fort Frances, I often bought meat and fish from local hunters and fishermen, and local produce from the farmers market. It has helped me lower my monthly grocery bill. Conclusion: Expect to pay more for groceries in small towns and rural communities across Canada. Ideally, food expenditure should be 10-15% of household income, but this can mean spending up to 33% of the budget on food. Before you move, find out how many grocery stores there are in the community you are considering. Even better: Go to the store and compare prices of basic food items.

Childcare facilities

Are preschools cheaper outside of Canada’s major cities? Not necessary! The rates are largely determined by the province in which you live. Here you can see what the costs for childcare look like in different countries:

City Average monthly cost for babies
Vancouver, BC $1,112
Calgary, AB $1,300
Regina, SC $850
Winnipeg, MB $651
Toronto, ON $1,774
Ottawa, ON $1,020
Montreal, QC $179
Iqaluit, NT $1,300
Yellowknife, NWT $1,093
Whitehorse, YC $900
St. John, NB $868
Halifax, NS $939
Charlottetown, PEI $738
St. John’s, EN $738

Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives 2020 According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, child care is most expensive in southern Ontario, with Toronto topping the list at $1,774 per month or $21,288 per year. It’s a mortgage payment! Child care, on the other hand, is cheapest in Quebec, which has had a universal provincial child care program for $7 a day since 1997. Whether you live in Montreal or Gaspé, Quebecers can pay less than $200 a month, no matter where they live. Good luck finding childcare at that price in Ontario or Alberta! Conclusion: No winner has been announced yet! The cost depends primarily on whether your province has a government-funded child care program, not on whether you live in a city or a village. However, big cities like Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver have some of the highest childcare costs in the country, and better deals can be found outside of urban centres. But things can change. The 2021 federal budget calls for the introduction of regulated child care at an average cost of $10 per day across Canada. It is expected to be implemented over the next five years, but the government plans to reduce average fees by 50% by the end of 2022. This announcement is a game changer: Affordable child care can be within reach of every Canadian, no matter where they live.

Municipal property tax

Another aspect is the municipal property tax, an annual tax paid to the municipality, which funds public services such as garbage collection, police/fire department, libraries, etc. The tax rate is set by the municipality and varies depending on the type of property you own. If you expect the life of a villager to be synonymous with cheap taxes, think again! Your taxes may be higher, in part because some services (such as recycling or waste collection) are difficult or expensive to provide in rural or remote areas. For example, large cities like Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto have lower property taxes than Norfolk County or Gaspé.

Property taxes for small towns/rural communities in Canada


City Population Property taxes as a percentage of average income
Norfolk County, ON 67,498 2%
Salmon Arm, British Columbia 19,438 1.5%
Winkler, MB 14,728 1.9%
Summerside, PEI 15,788 1.5%
Gaspé, QC 14,575 2.2%
Truro, NS 12,490 1.1%
Le Ould de la Madeleine, QC 11,924 2.1%

Source: Maclean’s 2021 Best Communities in Canada

Property tax major Canadian cities


City Population Property taxes as a percentage of average income
Toronto, ON 3,042,042 1.7%
Montreal, QC 1,844,197 1.9%
Calgary, AB 1,386,378 1.4%
Ottawa, ON 1,032,820 2.1%
Winnipeg, MB 778,602 1.8%
Vancouver, BC 682,404 1.2%
Halifax, NS 443,976 1.6%
Regina, SC 246,955 1.9%
St. John’s, EN 112,115 1.3%

Source: Maclean’s 2021 Best Communities in Canada Conclusion: Municipal taxes may be higher in small towns or rural communities, but they vary widely across Canada. Do your research.

City Life: Pros and cons

Here’s a quick comparison of what it’s like to live in the city:


  • Property taxes could get cheaper
  • Saving on transport costs (if you don’t need a car)
  • Food is more readily available
  • Access to facilities
  • access to healthcare
  • Improved pedestrian access/accessibility to public transport


  • Expensive housing
  • A smaller living space
  • Less green space
  • Car insurance is generally higher
  • Restaurant and entertainment spending on the rise

Living in the country: Pros and cons

Here’s a quick comparison of what it’s like to live in the country:


  • Housing is cheaper
  • Large living space
  • More green spaces
  • Car insurance is generally cheaper


  • Food tends to cost more
  • Petrol can be more expensive
  • Property taxes may be higher
  • Limited public transport
  • A car will probably be a necessity
  • Limited facilities
  • Limited health services

Other considerations

In addition to the general factors that destroy the family budget, which I have just described, there are other elements to consider when talking about a town or village.


If you want to dine in Michelin-starred restaurants, shop in shopping malls or party in the hottest nightclubs, rural life may not be for you. For me, the hardest part about living in a small town was the lack of amenities – restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, entertainment and fitness centers, shops, etc. Nightlife consisted of karaoke or drinking beer with friends in the backyard. The dry cleaning took two weeks because my clothes were shipped to Winnipeg. A visit to the mall meant a five-hour drive (one way!) to Winnipeg or Thunder Bay. On the other hand, there is a growing trend among chefs and food industry executives to leave the big cities and open stores in smaller communities. High rents in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, combined with the pandemic, have forced restaurateurs and chefs to move elsewhere. So times are changing and you can find great food culture in small towns across Canada. Another advantage: less equipment – less money spent. When I lived at the Fort, I spent about $50 a month on takeout and almost nothing on concerts, movies, restaurants and museums. Sometimes freedom comes from having fewer options.

Internet access

Reality check: There is a digital divide in Canada. Many residents of rural and remote areas have difficulty receiving a signal because there is no internet access or adequate or reliable cellular services in some areas. In Fort Frances, I had to wait a year for a mast to be built before I could get WiFi in my house! Even now, cell service can be unstable in our home.

Green zone

Access to green space is one of the most important features of rural and small town life. It is more realistic to buy a house with a large garden or on the waterfront. Moreover, you are not surrounded by skyscrapers, department stores and the hustle and bustle of the city. Fort Frances is a short drive from the city and there are many provincial parks in Northern Ontario for canoeing, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing, but without the urban crowds.

Health care services

In small towns and rural communities, health care may be limited. There is usually a local hospital, but some operations or procedures may not be available. You may have to travel to a larger city for specialized treatment.


Finding a new job can be challenging in rural areas, depending on your occupation. In a small town, there may not be a demand for interior designers or college professors. But if you have skills or an education that is in high demand (e.g., social work, teacher, doctor, nurse, engineer, etc.), you should be able to get a job. Some governments and employers are even offering financial incentives to skilled workers who are in demand and settling in rural and remote areas of Canada. A change of employer may not even be necessary. The pandemic has forced some companies (like Shopify) to implement remote workstations. If you can work from home and live anywhere, why not?

Last call

There is no simple answer to the question of how to live in the city or the countryside. Ultimately, it’s a personal choice, and both options have their pros and cons. If you are looking for affordable, spacious apartments and green spaces, small town living may be for you. I took advantage of it: Moving to Fort Frances allowed me to pay off my debts, improve my credit rating and save for a down payment. It would have taken me years in Toronto to get these results. But life in the countryside is not for everyone. If you want to sacrifice amenities or buy a car, living in the city may be a better option. Yes, housing is a big part of your salary, but there are other ways to cut costs. Ultimately, the decision is yours. Besides cost, there are more important things, like your happiness.On one hand, it’s a great idea to consider how different living in the city vs. the country might be. But, on the other hand, who really wants to leave the comforts of their home (unless, of course, you’re moving to a household with a lot of pets)? Before you consider the pros and cons of living in the city vs. the country, consider these numbers:. Read more about city life vs country life essay and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What country has the lowest cost of living?

The United States has long been regarded as the most expensive place in the developed world to live—but that’s no longer the case. Americans are now paying more in taxes than in other world locations, according to a survey by the Council on Foreign Relations . So is it possible to find a country where taxes are lower, and where you can live comfortably for a fraction of the cost? When people hear the word “budget”, they often think of what they can get for their money. But, what about quality of life?  Some articles will tell you that a certain area has the lowest cost of living, while others will tell you about the highest cost of living.  It is important to figure out where you want to live, and how much you want to spend on housing.  Some cities will have certain taxes and costs that will make it more expensive to live there.  So, you have got to take these costs into consideration, but the overall quality of life will be the deciding factor.

Is it better to live in the countryside than a city?

It’s no secret that the price difference between living in a city and a more rural area is quite large. Are you looking to move out of the city but don’t know where to look? We’ve used real data to find the places with the cheapest prices. Life in a big city can mean a lot of things, from traffic and pollution to high rent and crowded living spaces. However, city living doesn’t necessarily mean a poorer lifestyle, and there are many reasons why living in the countryside might be more convenient than staying in the city.

Is it cheaper to live outside of city limits?

For thousands of years, humans have built cities to house them, give them a sense of safety and community, and provide them with a wide range of opportunities for development and growth. Cities provide opportunities for people to live healthier lives, and to live more productive and fulfilling lives. At first, this question sounds like it would be easy to answer. After all, if living in the city is so expensive, then people living outside of the city should save a ton of money on housing prices. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The reality is that when you look at the total cost of living for a person, it’s not only more expensive to live outside of the city limits than within them, but it can be cheaper to live outside of the city limits than in the city.

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