Category Archives: Cheap lifestyle

Renting in Vancouver = expensive + depressing

Basement suite available in Vancouver near Langara College

Hey suckers! Come pay $1,200 a month to live in somebody’s basement! Act now! This offer won’t last!

If you are not familiar with the price of renting in Vancouver, B.C., allow me to enlighten you. Vancouver has the highest rents in Canada and some of the highest in the world. The latest report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says the average two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is around $1,200. (Toronto comes in a bit lower, Calgary at around $1,100, while Montreal, which has the most beautiful freaking apartments in the country, weighs in at a paltry $700. Damn I wish I could speak French).

Right now, M and are I paying the average, exactly $1,200, for a 900-square-foot suite in a character building in Mount Pleasant. The suite is great, except for the hideous mixed-beige – was there ever a more disgusting non-colour? – carpet. And the price. It’s too much for us. Oh, we can afford it, but just barely. Before this we lived in a 1,000-square-foot apartment on East Hastings for $750 a month. We loved that place, but had to flee to due to filthy noisy neighbours who filthiness caused a cockroach infestation.

So. Anyway. We have decided it’s time to go. We have started to look for a new place to live. Our criteria:

  • no carpet
  • two-bedroom or one-bedroom-and-den or one-bedroom-and-alcove (we need room to fit all our shit, of which we have a lot)
  • max price $1,000 per month
  • must be in Vancouver (but not on southernmost or easternmost fringes)
  • must not be below ground

Does this sound unreasonable? As any Vancouverite will tell you, yes it does. Because if you check the listings on Craiglist, you will see that $1,200 is actually at the low end for a two-bedroom apartment in this maddeningly expensive city. Which means there are a lot of crappy to half-decent places for this price, and a lot that are way more.

And don’t get me started on all the basement suites out there. It seems every homeowner is renovating their basement into a rental suite so they can get some poor slobs who somehow tolerate living underground to pay their mortgage. Whenever I see a listing for a basement suite I get instantly depressed. They’re all the same: tiny windows you have to stand on tiptoe to see out of, everything a uniform off-white to beige. And they use all the same description: Every basement suite is somehow “bright,” even though zero light comes in. The landlords often try to sweeten the deal by providing a washer and dryer, and they all mention the suite is self-contained and has a private entrance. Like what kind of suite is not self-contained and does not have a private entrance? Sheesh.

Oh yes, and they are getting creative, too. Even though I filter out “basement” and “bsmt” from my Craiglist searches, the sinister below-ground accommodations sneak in, because hopeful landlords are now calling them “ground-level” – I suppose that’s fair, if it’s referring to the fact that your eyeballs are level with the ground – or the incredibly euphemistic (and optimistic) “garden level,” which makes it sound all nice and green and viney and dripping with tomatoes and stuff.

Because finding half-decent digs for a half-decent price in this town is such a Herculean task, M and I have decided to make a game out of it. We have three things going for us: we are cheap, we are determined and we love to win (the opponent being Vancouver, of course). So let the game begin. And may the better … entity … win.


The death of Toyota

This photo shows a 1995 Toyota 4Runner

Oooooh, what a feeling to scraaaaaaap, Toyota.

Not the company, but our 1995 4Runner, may she rest in peace.

We lost her a couple weeks ago on a trip to Vancouver Island. We were planning to sell her – had in fact already bought a zippy and fuel-efficient Honda Civic to replace her – but wanted to go on one last jaunt with her.

We decided to sell her because, let’s face it, 4Runners are pigs on gas.  Continue reading

How to fix a gramophone spring without killing yourself

So, yeah, M loves gramophones but does not necessarily want to pay full price for one in pristine condition that actually, you know, works. Well, a little while ago he bought a lovely little tabletop model from a yard sale in White Rock for $40. Did it work? Of course not. The spring, aka the motor (how’s that for analogue?), was broken. In this case you have two options: a) hand it over to a qualified gramophone repair person who will do the job right and charge you $150 or b) repair the spring yourself and risk being decapitated/severing your fingers if the spring, which has super sharp edges, decides to, well, spring (I’m not making this up – every site M checked said: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS YOURSELF).

As Caesar said, “Veni, vidi, vici.” In other words, M tried and succeeded, head and fingers intact. If anyone out there aspires to fix a gramophone spring, watch these videos:

Part 1

Part 2

Black widows included

This photo shows a vintage china cabinet with rose details, from Mexico.

Does it come apart? It does now.

Warning: the following contains scenes of destruction, waste, illegal dumping and potentially lethal eight-legged creatures. Viewer discretion is advised.

M and I are minor hoarders (you should see our respective shoe collections) and one day we decide we need a shelf-cum-cupboard to house our increasing collection of footwear, and books. Continue reading

Cheap Mac repair

This photo shows a rotten apple sitting on grass.

Sometimes, Apple can be really rotten.

I’ll cut to the chase. Recently I turned on my beloved MacBook Pro (c. 2007) to find that, though the machine powered up, the screen remained black. After doing a few tests, I read up on the problem and it seemed like it could be the logic board. And bonus: if it was the logic board, and it had failed due to the graphics card, Apple would replace it for free. Continue reading

Increase your bust for cheap

What we have here is the Emma Bust Exerciser, made in Germany, Hamburg to be precise. I picked up this gem at the Sally Ann on 12th, the one with the great big basement full of junk.  The writing on the unit is German: “Brust Trainingsgerat,” it says, and it’s so great that English and German have a few things in common, because you don’t need to know any German at all to understand what this little machine is for. Continue reading

Good-bye cheap apartment, so long East Hastings

This picture shows a 1950s mid-century couch and chair, an antique wool rug from China, an original Communist propaganda poster from China.

Awww… this was our living room. The green paint is a mis-tint we picked up for cheap. The chesterfield and couch are vintage 1950s, picked up for free from the original owners off Craigslist. Original communist art poster from China (gift), photos mine, antique rug purchased for $80, all else thrifted.

Well, we did it. We left our beloved apartment in Hastings-Sunrise and moved to Mount Pleasant. The cockroaches came back, the neighbours continued to party their asses off, the lunatic downstairs continued to scream and yell at the slightest provocation (e.g., tapping the lid back on a can of paint, dropping a pencil on the floor) and our landlord, Wing, stopped cleaning the graffiti off the the walls around the entrance to the block. Continue reading