Alberta is one of Canada’s ten provinces and it is in the west of the country, neighbouring British Columbia. In the east, it shares a border with Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories in the north, and it borders the United States in the south. It has a population of 4.4 million.
Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and with a population of over 1.2 million it is the largest city in the province. Edmonton, which is the capital of Alberta, is the second largest, with a population of 981,000. However, the metropolitan area of Edmonton includes over one million people. Other notable cities in Alberta include Red Deer, Lethbridge and St. Albert.
People know Alberta for its beautiful landscape and artistic heritage. From a financial point of view, it is known for the highest median household income in Canada and for not having provincial sales taxes.
Alberta’s main industries have traditionally been the oil and gas industry and agriculture. However, there are growing financial and tourism sectors in the province. Calgary is also a popular choice for many national and international companies thanks to its low corporate tax rates.
In this article, you will find information on what it costs to live in Alberta. We have included information on how Alberta’s cost-of-living compares to other provinces and territories in Canada. We also break down what the different necessities in life cost in Alberta.
But first, we will look at what do you need to earn to live comfortably in Alberta.
What is the livable wage in Alberta?
Before we look at the livable wage in Alberta, let’s define what the term means. It is the amount of income a family (usually a family of four) or an individual needs to live comfortably. That means they should have money for all the necessities, such as accommodation and food, but also for recreational activities and some left over for savings.
The living wage varies across Alberta. In Calgary, a livable wage is $18.60 and in Edmonton it is $18.10. However, it is a lot higher in other places. For example, in Cochrane the living wage is $22.60 and Canmore, the highest in the province, $37.40.
Interestingly, the minimum wage for the province is only $15.00 per hour. When Alberta raised it to $15.00, it was the highest in the country, but now other provinces have overtaken it. But we can see from the livable wage rate that even in Calgary and Edmonton, the minimum wage is not enough to allow a person to live a comfortable life and save for the future.
The good news is that many companies in Alberta are committing to paying all their employees a livable wage rather than a minimum wage. When all companies are paying at least a livable wage to their employees, it will improve the wellbeing for everyone in the province.
Cost of Living Index in Alberta
A cost-of-living index combines the cost of everyday expenses in an area. It includes categories such as the cost of utilities, groceries, travel and childcare. It will give you a total, which is then compared to a baseline of one hundred. The smaller the total, the cheaper life is in that area.
Just like the wage needed to live comfortably varies across Alberta, so does the cost-of-living index. Unfortunately, this data is currently available only for Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer in Alberta. Their cost-of-living indexes are: 73.94, 72.37 and 63.41.
According to the latest figures, Red Deer has the lowest cost-of-living index in Canada with Regina, Saskatchewan and Quebec City, Quebec having the second lowest indexes at 64.65 and 65.58. Calgary has the fifth and Edmonton the seventh highest indexes in the country. For comparison, the cities with the highest living costs in Canada are Nanaimo at 76.82 and Victoria at 76.22.
The index for Canada is 70.22, which shows that both Calgary and Edmonton have a higher cost-of-living than the Canadian average, whereas Red Deer has a lower index.
Alberta is one of the best provinces for taxes in Canada. For starters, it has no sales tax, no payroll tax and no health premium. It also has one of the lowest personal income rates in Canada, at least when you are higher on the pay scale. Here is what the tax brackets look like in Alberta.
Up to $131,220 of taxable income, +
on the next $26,244, +
on the next $52,488, +
on the next $104,976, +
on the amount over $314,928
The highest percentage of tax you will ever pay out of your taxable income is 15%. Edmonton has the fifth lowest top tier percentage in Canada together with Yukon. Those with a more advantageous percentage for the highest earners are the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
However, those who are just starting their careers or work in sectors with lower wages, are not benefiting from the province’s tax brackets. For example, a person earning $40,000 per year in Alberta will pay $4,000 in income taxes. In Nunavut, where the lowest tier is only 4%, the taxes will be only 1,600 per year and 2,020 in Ontario.
Buying or renting a home
Canada has seen sharp increases in property prices across the country. The hike in prices is because many popular areas do not have enough properties available. However, the situation is better in Alberta where there are still more homes available and that has kept the property prices more under control.
The average house price in Alberta was $477,000 in May 2022, compared to $442,000 the year before. That is an annual rise of 7.7%. Nova Scotia saw the biggest year on year increase at 31.7%.
Compared to its neighbours, The Northwest Territories have the same average price as Alberta, Saskatchewan is cheaper with an average house price of $330,000. However, its neighbour to the west, British Columbia, is almost twice as expensive.
Just under a third of Canadian households are living in rental homes and four in ten of those households spend over 30 per cent of their pre-tax income on rent. This is considered above the affordability threshold. So where does Alberta stand compared to other provinces?
In a recent survey which compared the cost of rent and utilities, Alberta had the highest average monthly cost at $1,279. The Northwest Territories and British Columbia were second and third expensive. The cheapest place was Nunavut with the average monthly rent with utilities only $737.
However, as we will see in a moment, the cost of utilities is high in Alberta. If we were to compare rents only, then Alberta would not be at the top. The average rent in Red Deer is $988. Lethbridge and Edmonton both have an average rent of $1,403 and Calgary $1,471. Compared to the top two cities of Vancouver $2,377 and Toronto $2,133, the rents in Alberta are significantly cheaper.
The cities in Alberta have some of the highest public transport costs in Canada. Only Toronto and Ottawa have more expensive monthly travel passes than Calgary and Edmonton has the sixth most expensive pass when comparing 29 Canadian cities. The province also doesn’t have the best reputation for public transport especially outside the city centres.
If you plan to travel around using your own car rather than public transport, then Alberta fares better with some of the lowest gasoline prices in the country. However, the gasoline prices are known to fluctuate, so it’s best to keep an eye on the prices to fill up your tank on the cheap.
We already mentioned the cost of utilities in Alberta, and they are definitely among the highest in the country. In fact, after Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Alberta has the highest utility bills in Canada. Here are the average costs for the different utilities in Alberta.
At the time of writing, the cheapest province for utility bills is Ontario where it will cost you on average $328.45 per month.
How much you will spend on food and drink per month will depend on whether you eat meat or are a vegetarian or a vegan. It will also depend on if you eat a lot of fast food or often go to restaurants. It will also depend on if you make your own lunch and whether you like to pick up a cup of coffee in the morning or lunchtime.
Because the cost will vary so much depending on personal habits and preferences, it is not possible to give you a monthly calculation of the cost of your groceries, including eating and drinking out per month. Instead, here is a list that includes the average cost of some common food items as well as the cost of eating out in Alberta.
1 litre of milk
A 500g loaf of bread
1.5 litre water bottle
A bottle of wine
Beer ½ litre
3 course meal for 2 people, mid-range restaurant
McMeal at McDonalds
Hobbies and Entertainment
A livable wage should be enough for you to spend money on recreational activities. The prices for recreational activities vary a lot, not just between cities, but within them as well. For this article, we researched the prices for gym memberships and going to the cinema.
For example, in Edmonton, the prices range from a gym where you only pay $4.99 bi-weekly to one where the monthly pass is $181. The price depends on the size of the gym, the facilities available and whether the pass includes classes and swimming as well as the use of the gym. So finding the right gym for you and your budget will be a matter of checking them out in person.
The price of a cinema ticket varies, too, but the range is quite small. A child ticket for ages 3-13, will usually cost $7.99-$8.99. An adult ticket, from 14 years and up, is between $10.99 and $12.99 and tickets for seniors range from $8.50 to $10.50.
Families with children will also want to know the cost of childcare in Alberta. The good news is that the government is spending a lot of money to support families with children, which includes a grant paid to child care providers so they can offer lower fees to parents.
How much you will have to pay depends on your household income. If your income is more than $180,000, then child care will cost you $22.19 per day. For families who earn below $119,000, the cost is $10 on average.
Primary and secondary education is free in Alberta, as in all of Canada, but some parents may wish to enter their children into a private school. Currently, tuition fees for private schools in Alberta range from $2,950 to $36,200 per year.
If you are basing your decision to move based on living costs, then Alberta has many positives and some drawbacks such as the higher than average cost of utilities. However, the savings you can make on other bills should balance this out.
Alberta is definitely worth considering for its cheaper property and rental prices, great support for families and many companies that already have committed to pay at least a livable wage rather than a minimum wage for their employees.