When people think about living in Canada, Nova Scotia might not be the first province that comes to their mind. It might not be as well known, or as popular, as provinces such as Ontario, Quebec or British Columbia. However, it is worth considering because Nova Scotia is a beautiful place to live.

Nova Scotia is the second-smallest province in Canada and it is home to almost one million people. It is the second most densely populated province in Canada. The capital city of Nova Scotia is Halifax. Other notable cities in the province include Cape Breton, Truro, Lunenburg and Baddeck.

The name Nova Scotia is Latin for New Scotland. Nova Scotia is a maritime province on the eastern coastline and interestingly, is almost exactly halfway between the North Pole and the equator. The climate in Nova Scotia is a mixture of continental and maritime, which means the winters are cold and wet and the summers warm.

Nova Scotia also has many picturesque fishing villages if city life is not for you. There is plenty of nature to experience in Nova Scotia from coastal cliffs and sandy beaches to rolling green hills and forests inland. But if you are looking to move to Nova Scotia, you are probably keen to know what is the cost of living in the province.

In this article, we look at the cost of living in Nova Scotia and how much you would need to earn to live comfortably in the province. With living comfortably, we mean that your income after tax is enough to cover all the necessities and you still have money for hobbies and entertainment and can save for the future.

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What is a livable wage in Nova Scotia?

What is a livable wage in Nova Scotia?

How much you need to earn to live comfortably in Nova Scotia depends on where you live. For example, you need to earn more in Halifax, which is the capital of the province than in smaller places because your expenses in Halifax are greater.

To live comfortably in Nova Scotia, you need to earn between $18.45-22.05, which is less than you need in provinces such as British Columbia or Ontario. If we compare the monthly living cost without rent or mortgage for a family of four in Halifax, $4,361.83 to that of Toronto $4,731.64 and Vancouver $4,643.05 we can see your wages will go further in Halifax than the other two cities. However, your monthly living costs in Halifax are higher than in Montreal where it is $4,242.47.

But as we will see when we look at the cost-of-living index and the local purchasing power towards the end of the article, it is not as simple as comparing the monthly living costs.

But before we look at the cost-of-living index and local purchasing power, we will look at the different things we spend money on, including transport, groceries, recreational activities, household bills and rent or mortgage. But first, we will look at how much income tax you will pay in Nova Scotia.

Taxes

One of the first things you need to do when you start working out how much money you will need to live comfortably in Nova Scotia is to take away your taxes from your monthly income.

Below you will see the income taxes were in Nova Scotia in 2021.

If you have a taxable income that is $29,000 or less, then you will pay 8.79% income tax on that portion. When your income exceeds that amount, you will pay 14.95% on the portion of your taxable income that is more than $29,590, but not more than $59,180.

In the next bracket, which is on income above $59,180, but below $93,000, you will pay. 16.67%. Taxable income which is more than $93,000 but not more than $150,000 is taxed at 17.5%. And finally, if your income exceeds $150,000, you will be taxed 21% on the portion of your taxable income that is above it.

The above information of income taxes is from the website for the Government of Canada.

Accommodation

Whether you are looking to rent or buy, the cost of accommodation in Canada has risen significantly in the recent years and Nova Scotia is no exception. However, the province is still among the cheapest provinces in the country and Halifax is a lot cheaper than some other major cities.

For example, let’s compare the price of the average family home in Halifax to the same three cities we used above. In Halifax, the average price is $545,000, in Toronto $1.35 million and in Vancouver $1,374,500. From that, we can clearly see how much further your money will go on the housing market in Halifax. However, the price is not that different compared to Montreal where the average house price is $587,415.

Average rents have gone up, too in. Last year, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment was 2,041C$ and for one-bedroom 1,574C$. Compared to 2020, the average price had risen over 160C$ in a year.

If we compare the rental prices of Halifax to those in Toronto and Vancouver, you can expect to pay about 70% less rent in Halifax. Montreal, once again, is only a little more expensive than Halifax.

Transport

When you are figuring out your monthly expenses, you need to include the cost of either public or private transport. Unless you walk or cycle everywhere and incur no costs.

Since data for other cities and towns in Nova Scotia is not as available, we will use Halifax as an example again. A single trip on public transport will cost you $2.75 in Halifax and a regular price monthly pass is $82.50. To fill up your own car will cost you $1.97 per litre.

Utilities

Another expense that needs to be included when working out monthly living costs is your utilities, including electricity, water and rubbish collection. The cost for these utilities combined for an 85m2 apartment is $154.66 per month.

You probably will also have internet at your home which will cost you a further $104.20 per month on average.

Groceries

The amount you will spend on food per month will depend on your diet and whether you prefer to cook, get take away or to eat out. This is one area where Nova Scotia is dearer than other provinces such as Ontario or Quebec. One reason behind the higher cost is longer and more costly transport and another is the shorter growing season than in the more southern provinces.

Here are some price examples of what you can expect to spend in Halifax.

Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course90.00 C$
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught)6.50 C$
Cappuccino (regular)4.55 C$
Milk (regular), (1 liter)2.25 C$
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)3.14 C$
Rice (white), (1kg)5.35 C$
Eggs (regular) (12)4.47 C$
Local Cheese (1kg)12.86 C$
Chicken Fillets (1kg)14.91 C$
Tomato (1kg)5.07 C$

Hobbies and Entertainment

In this section we have included prices for recreational activities such as going to the cinema, joining a gym or playing tennis for an hour during the weekend.

ActivityHalifaxTorontoVancouverMontreal
Gym56.2864.3356.5544.39
Tennis18.6019.7614.2321.50
Cinema (1 ticket)15.0015.0016.0015.00

From the table above, we can see that the prices are very similar across all the four cities.

Childcare

If you have children, then you also need to account for the cost of childcare. Primary and secondary education are both free in Canada. However, if you wish to enter your child into a private primary school, then you would be looking at $16,000 per year for one child. The monthly cost of a private preschool place based on full day care is $732.22.

The prices for comparison in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are $1,659, $1,351 and $885.38 for preschool and $26,794, $25,561and $11,000 for private primary schools. From this, we can see that childcare and private education cost a lot less in Halifax than in Toronto or Vancouver.

Compared to Montreal, preschools are cheaper in Halifax, but private primary schools are more expensive.

Cost of Living Index

We can also compare the cost-of-living index of Halifax to other cities in the country. If you have not come across the cost-of-living index before, here is a brief explanation.

The cost-of-living index takes into account the different daily costs such as listed above and the average income to calculate an index, which is then compared to a baseline of one hundred. The further below the base line a country of a city is, the cheaper it is to live in. For Halifax, the index is 75.07.

The cost-of-living index in Halifax, there is no index to compare provinces only cities, is the third highest in the country behind St John-s and Victoria. The cheapest cities on the cost-of-living index are St. Catharines, Hamilton, and Quebec City.

The reason Halifax has such a high score, even higher than Vancouver and Toronto, which are more expensive if we were to look at the monthly living costs or housing only, is that the median household income is that much lower. The median household income in Nova Scotia is $53,300 per year, and it is the lowest in the country. In British Columbia, the median household income is $65,700, in Ontario $66,600 and in Quebec $55,600.

Local Purchasing Power

Finally, we can compare the rankings of different Canadian cities based on their local purchasing power. How is the local purchasing power calculated?

To work out how much the local purchasing power is, you need to take the average household incomes for the area and compare them to the cost of living. This will give you the local purchasing power result. In other words, it shows you the relative purchasing power when buying goods and services in a given location for the average wage in that location.

The results are then compared to a baseline, similarly to the cost-of-living index. However, instead of a baseline of one hundred, the results are compared to New York City. The results are read differently, too. Here, the lower numbers mean the less you can get with your salary.

Halifax has a purchasing power of 73.6 and ranks 23rd in Canada. The cities with the least purchasing power, in a comparison of 29 cities, were Nanaimo, British Columbia at 49.18, St John’s, Newfoundland at 54.07, and Windsor, Ontario at 58.88. The best cities were Calgary, Alberta at 107.68, North Vancouver, British Columbia at 102.77, and Red Deer, Alberta at 102.05.

In Conclusion

Nova Scotia is a beautiful place to live with stunning scenery and over 7,000 kilometres of coastline. It is a naturally beautiful province with sea, lakes and forests. The space of life in Nova Scotia, even in its capital Halifax is slower than more populated provinces.

It might not have the highest average salaries in Canada, nor the best purchasing power, but it still has one of the cheapest housing and rental markets in the country. The cost of private education is cheaper, too, than in Ontario or British Columbia, so if you are a parent looking to get your child into a private school, then Nova Scotia is a good option.

We also need to remember that the figures such as the median household income is just that: a median. If you are highly skilled, you can earn above the median income and have more money left in your pocket after all your bills have gone out.