Looking rich in Toronto on a budget!

In 5 years I’ve seen the cost of living explode in Toronto! It’s becoming difficult to reconcile mandatory expenses (housing, transportation, grocery shopping) and leisure activities. For that there are a lot of little tips to know to save here and there. I love to find good tips, so why not share them with everyone? Contrary to France where for some strange reason we don’t feel comfortable to take advantage of promotions, Canadians love the offers and take full advantage of them! You’ll sometimes find promotion codes posted in the metro, discount coupons in your mailbox on a regular basis and many referal programs.

For more great deals on a daily basis I invite you to follow me on Instagram @fringinto !


 

Restaurants

Winterlicious/Summerlicious is an event created by the City of Toronto to provide smaller budgets with access to restaurants that are usually off-budget. More than 200 restaurants across the city participate and offer a fixed menu at a fixed price between $23 and $53. You have a winter version (usually late January/early February) and a summer version (late June/early July). It’s also an excuse to enjoy a good restaurant with friends 😉 More info.

Restauration – Take out

Feedback app which I already told you about in my article about my favorite apps. The application allows you to buy dishes at low prices in participating restaurants to avoid waste, to be retrieved during certain time slots (outside of rush). I tried it several times and saved a few dollars for something I would have bought anyway: good deal! In addition, a percentage of your purchases is donated to Second Harvest, a Canadian association that fights against food waste. Take advantage of a 3$ discount on your first order with my code AMOULA07Plus d’infos.

The George Brown College kitchens located on King East offer products prepared by students for sale to the public Monday to Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm at unbeatable prices, such as sushi or pizza for less than $6 or black forest for $8. More info.

Ritual app allows you to order your meal/coffee in advance and pick it up on site. Very popular in the financial district, it allows many employees to pick up their meal without wasting time and make the most of their break time. The advantage is that you accumulate points for each order which is transformed into a voucher. You also get points if you pick up a colleague’s meal or report a mistake in the menu. With this referral link you will get $10 discount on your first order. (And it’s a Toronto based startup) Plus d’infos.

Starbucks app or why you see people handing out phones instead of credit cards to pay for coffee. On the app you reload the amount you want (even 10$, it’s often what I do since I don’t go there all the time, I don’t want to give them my money before I spend it haha) then thanks to the app you accumulate stars at each checkout, you can also participate in challenges (ex: win 50 stars if you order 3 drinks over the next 4 days), you then reach levels that allow you to have a free drink (when you have the free drink, remember to take the venti if you’re used to take the grande, it’s a gift! ) or to personalize your drink with options that are usually paid for. More info

Tim Hortons app for those who prefer the Canadian coffee chain, every 7 visits (7 was the jersey number of the founder Tim Horton when he played hockey in the NHL) you get a reward, for your 8th visit you can choose a free pastry, coffee or tea. More info.

End-of-day discounts: Many restaurants and some supermarkets offer end-of-day discounts to clear unsold stock during the day and avoid waste. Especially in the food courts of shopping centres.

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Museums

Your Presto card offers some interesting discounts such as 20% discount at the ROM, 15% at the aquarium or 20% to visit the Aga Khan Museum. Full list available here.

Some museums offer a few free time slots during the week:

  • Royal Ontario Museum: free third Tuesday of the month from 5:30pm to 8:30pm – More info.
  • Art Gallery of Ontario: free every Wednesday from 6pm to 9pm – More info.
  • Textile Museum: pay as you can every Wednesday from 5pm to 8pm – More info.
  • Gardiner Museum: free very Wednesday from 4pm to 9pm – More info. 
  • Bata Shoes Museum: pay as you can every Thursday from 5pm to 8pm – More info.

Doors Open Toronto: the City of Toronto opens more than 150 buildings free of charge over the course of a weekend. The one I would finally like to visit (the line is always super long) is the disused subway station (known as Lower Bay) under Bay station which is used for filming movies or training exercises. The second year I was there I visited several buildings that I recommend: Campbell House Museum, City Hall (the top floor offers a very nice view), Old City Hall (beautiful inside), Osgoode Hall (I’ll be back!), St. George’s Hall (The Arts and Letters Club). More info. Full list of opened buildings in 2019.

Museum + Arts Pass: with your library card you can borrow a free pass (the same way you borrow books) for several museums in the city. Each library has its own list of passes available for consultation here. The passes are limited to one per person per week. Each pass has its own conditions (some are valid for 2 people, others only one for example). First come, first served principle. More information.

The City Pass: as in many cities the City Pass is available in Toronto. You get a 36% discount on 5 attractions such as the CN Tower, the Aquarium, Casa Loma, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Zoo. The passes are available online here.

Shows

National Ballet of Canada:

The advantage of living in a big city is the easy access to certain events. Before living here I had never had the opportunity to go and see a ballet and I can only recommend it to you, it was a great experience, I felt like a little girl. I saw Swan Lake and The Nutcracker: incredible! The prices vary from around $40 to over $300 for some tickets.

For some performances rush tickets are available, discounts vary depending on the performance, they are limited to 2 per person and are available the same day at 11am, available online (with the RUSH code), by phone at 416 (1-866)-345-9595 or in person at the box office of the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen West Street.

The other, even more economical option is standing room option, stand-up tickets. 60 tickets are on sale the day of the performance at the opening of the box office for $12 per ticket. Limited to 2 tickets per person they can only be purchased at the box office.

More info

French Theatre:

To begin with: yes, there is a French Theatre in Toronto. I attended 2 shows lately and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the hall was full! If you followed my stories on Instagram there are also surtitles on the sides in English if you want to be accompanied by an English speaking person! You have 2 options that I find nice:

  • Tickets -30 years old/artists at the fixed price of $20
  • Wednesday: Pay As You Can: pay what you can for Wednesday’s performances.

More info

GameTime app allows you to book tickets for shows, concerts and matches at the last minute with a discount. Remember to check out sites such as Stubhub if the price is worth it. Not all tickets are worth it. More info.

TodayTix is another last-minute ticket shopping site. Pretty limited on Toronto. More info.

Crews & Tangos: it’s one of the most famous bars on Church Street. On Friday evenings before 9pm (after the entrance is paying) you can attend Drag Queens shows and really have a great time! The atmosphere is crazy, the articles are full of humor and have a lot of talent! More info.

Movies

As in France on Tuesday nights in Canada the cinema is cheaper! Be careful to come early or buy online (depending on the cinema) or risk queuing for a while. It’s a very popular deal in Toronto!

Cineplex: the large cinema complex (equivalent to UGC or Le Pathé in France) offers a 40% discount and an additional 10% for members of their loyalty programme SCENE.

Scotiabank Debit card allows you to accumulate SCENE points, every 1,250 points you get a cinema ticket, at the opening you also get, depending on the offers, the equivalent of 5 cinema seats.

Independent cinemas: I invite you to check with your local cinema to see if they also have an offer on Tuesday nights.

Cheapest movie theatres downtown Toronto: Carlton Cinema and Market Square Theatre (they are both propriety of Imagine Cinemas), both theatres offer $10 and $7 tickets on Tuesday nights.

L’Alliance Française de Toronto offers movies in French every Thursday night on Pay As You Can basis in the cinema on their  Spadina/Bloor location. The films are not recent but it’s a good release to do even with English speakers since all the films are subtitled in English. Calendar available here.

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Sports

The Lululemon shops offer free yoga classes, pay as you can or at low prices and above all without obligation which they call “Sweat with us”. Some stores like the one in Queen West also offer HIIT and other classes (the list of their classes here) as well as workshops (their entire offer here). Courses are in English and change depending on the location, carpets and other accessories are provided. Events in Toronto.

The first month trial at a special rate is offered by many studios (especially in yoga), for example my old yoga studio IamYoga offers a rate of $59 for an unlimited month (normal price: $119), Yoga Tree offers a first month at $60 for an unlimited pass at $120 normally. It’s a good way to test something before committing.

Run clubs: we see them a little less in the winter, not sure if it’s because they don’t run anymore but we spend less time strolling the streets to see them, running groups are very popular in Toronto. Most of them are free, it’s a good way to get motivated and meet people with whom you share a common passion.

  • You have again Lululemon which proposes runs twice a week, between 5 and 10km (days and times to be checked in each shop, the infos on Internet are not clear).
  • You also have the Running Rats Toronto, a free group that runs every Tuesday night from King and Bay, you will have the choice between a 7, 10 and 13km.
  • The Running Room stores also offer their group for free on Wednesdays and Saturdays. More info.
  • A group of runners that formed after the Nike Running club closed and meets twice a week in Portland/Queen. (time available in their Instagram)

I haven’t listed all the options and I encourage you to do some research in your neighbourhood.

ClassPass app is a tool that allows you to book all your sports classes at once. The good plan is that the first month is free. You can test up to 6 lessons for free during the month and unsubscribe without any problem a few days before the end. If you decide to continue the month is at $69. More infoi.

Yoga classes at low prices it’s possible! Charlotte offers indoor classes in the winter and outdoor classes at Trinity Bellwoods in the summer. The first class is $10 then $15 and you can take a package of 5 classes for $65. More info in her Facebook page.

Zenrez app offers you to book fitness classes at the last minute with a discount. I knew about the application several years ago and in my memory there were more choices in Toronto. The few choices available are still interesting but less provided than before. More info.

Low cost gym: I will mention only three of them, beware of the registration fees for certain rooms and the length of the commitment.

  • Hone fitness: starting at $15 a fortnight, 7 different rooms in Toronto
  • Crunch: starting at $10 per month, 6 different rooms including the only one downtown: Yonge and Gerrard.
  • Fit4Less: starting at $10 a month, 10 venues in Toronto but none downtown. I used to go there my first year and I was very happy about it.

Groupon: we no longer present the Groupon site/app. They’ve been offering good deals for years, I was already using them before I came to Canada. You can easily find offers for fitness classes, it’s a good way for new gyms to make themselves known. More info.

Health

A new pair of glasses: I told you about this good plan in my article “Medical guide to Toronto” a few months ago. If you have a mutual insurance company (called benefits here) you will surely be entitled to a flat rate for your glasses, if you don’t have a mutual insurance company and of course we don’t have anything, in both cases you may be interested in this offer. On Groupon there are very often offers at a few dollars (like 8 and 20$ for example) which give you a 200$ voucher. Before you buy, go to a shop (there are always several shops available on Groupon), see the one that has frames that you like the most, get confirmation that you can cumulate mutual and Groupon and you’ve just offered yourself a budget of $400 for 10 balls! I had shared the good plan on Instagram last year and many of you have tested and approved it 😉

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Shopping

Winners/Homesense/Marshall: if you’re already in Toronto you couldn’t miss them, they’re everywhere! This chain offers a wide selection of products (clothing, decoration, beauty products, shoes, sports accessories, kitchen utensils) at very interesting prices. It’s always worth going there to make gifts, for decoration at low prices or for beauty products. Be careful though, they have arrivals every week and what you saw today will surely not be there tomorrow.

Dollarama: the chain is ultra well known and ultra present in Canada, you will find everything at unbeatable prices: from sponges to aluminum foil, garbage bags and hair elastics. And above all, you’ll find sweets such as M&Ms, Mars and others much cheaper than in other stores.

Loyalty cards

The Air Miles card gives you a 10% discount when you visit the CN Tower.

The PC Optimum application allows you to earn points at every checkout at all stores that are part of the President Choice network, including Shoppers DrugMart and Loblaws, for example. The application regularly offers offers on what you consume most often, as well as offers such as “10,000 points for $30 of purchase today”. If you consume cleverly you quickly accumulate points to please me (10,000 points = $10). More info.

Hairdressers

Aveda Institute: Aveda Hairdressing School offers services that are less expensive than most salons in Toronto. I went there the first year for a cut and colour that was okay. You can choose the level of the student according to your budget and your requirements, good deal and moreover downtown! More info.

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