Budgeting in Montreal

When you enter a different country you always have the usual suspects of things you’ll encounter that’s different.  Maybe it’s the food, the people, the language, all or none of these things.  The one you don’t expect though, the Kaiser Soze of the group, is shopping.  I went into Provigo (pronounced Pro-Vee-go) expecting to buy generally the same things I buy back home and was thrown for a loop when I saw how everything was priced.  Normally I’d buy chicken but here it’s very expensive while large packages of steak and ground beef go on sale every week.  I don’t think food shopping in Montreal is generally more expensive than shopping in Burlington.  There’s just a different way of shopping.  You have to find what foods you like and which foods fit your budget.  My food shopping started with spending as little as possible but I usually ended up with not enough food to sustain me.  I needed to figure out the trick to getting enough food to last me a week or so.

This process was very trial and error as I had to go food shopping multiple times to figure out the average grocery bill was.  I also did some exploring and found some other stores that had lower prices for specific foods.  After a few trials and urban exploration runs I was able to determine how much I could spend on food.  Having to buy food on top of wanting to go out with friends meant that I had to figure out a weekly budget for myself.

I wasn’t expecting to have a big issue with budgeting but my time up here has shown me that budgeting is a difficult and necessary thing to do.  The way you live your life determines how your budget is shaped.  I like to be home and go out with friends on occasion which made my budget about 70% towards groceries and the other 30% for hanging out.  Some people may spend most of their time outdoors and focus their money on restaurants and fast food.  Figuring out how to use your money wisely is the key to living comfortably.

My recommendation to any students desiring a smooth transition into Montreal living is to go out and explore the city a bit.  Not only will it help you familiarize yourself with the city but it will show you where the bargains are, especially for produce shopping.  Jean Talon market is a fantastic place to buy fresh produce at low prices.  Grapes or cauliflower as large as your head for $3 and 50lb bags of potatoes for $8!  The Jean Talon market is the spot for produce.  Provigo is a better place to buy bread, boxed meals, and juices.  If you have a sweet tooth I’ve discovered it is best to go to Dollarama or Jean Coutu to pick up cadies on the cheap.  Finally, don’t expect to know your budget in the first week or two.  You can’t know how much will feed you before you actually eat.  Go shopping, look at your receipts, and see how long that lasts you.  That’s how I managed to make a budget for myself.

– Carlos Gutierrez, Game Design Major, Official Blogger, Fall 2013