Driving less? Eating less? How people are coping with the cost of living

With the cost of living becoming increasingly out of touch for many, we’re finding out how some people are trying to cut corners just to keep up.

Paul Dostal lives in Langley and works in Surrey. He says he has to drive for work to various sites across the city but says in his personal life, he’s cutting back. Dostal says he’s driving less and walking when possible or riding his bike, just to save money. He says he also takes transit but feels the options available right now are “poor.”

Dostal says the stress of living here with everything being so expensive, keeps him up at night.

“It’s a daily struggle. You have to look for other ways to save money. I’m expecting we’re going to have a hot summer, so putting blackout curtains [up] to cut down on the electrical use. Growing my own vegetables, but I’ve got a tiny little patio, so it’s not going to amount to much. Trying to figure out what foods we consume on a weekly basis and foods that generally go to waste and cut as much waste as possible.”

The father of one feels like he’s at his wits’ end.

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“There’s not much I can really do. I use my points with Shoppers Drug Mart, Save-on Foods, Superstore — all those points I use on an almost weekly basis. [The struggle] is very real. I got a wage increase like a year and a half ago and it was a nice boost, and then the gas prices went up and completely eradicated it.”

He admits cutting back isn’t easy, but he’s not sure what to do. “I’ve been trying to save money [but] everything costs more, so all the money that I saved went to pay for everything else that had to be paid for, including my car. Food, it’s going up no matter where I look. My shoes are falling apart. I got my Christmas bonus, that should go to some fun stuff — it went to groceries. It went to pay for my kid’s education. There are so many things I can’t do, like a family vacation.”

Dostal currently has a gas-powered car but is hoping his next vehicle purchase is an electric vehicle, however, financially he’s not sure if or when he’ll be able to make that work. Instead, he’s leaning toward a hybrid to help offset the cost of gas. “The price is just not where I’m comfortable at right now. The mileage is not there. I would also probably have to talk to my strata to figure out how to charge my vehicle, that’s another thing.”

He says as people struggle, he’d like to see the provincial government intervene to help people.

Read more: Fewer than 1% have gotten their ICBC gas rebate direct deposit

“When I see a $1 billion being spent on a museum, when I know I’m getting $110 for basically a tank of gas, it stresses me out… when I try to sleep. When I look at my bank account, and there are minus numbers in there because I can’t pay for things. I don’t know what I can cut back on, maybe my food, I could eat less.”

Car-sharing memberships kick into higher gear

With the price of gas in the Lower Mainland the most expensive in North America, it would appear more people are opting to come up with other ways to get around, outside of using their personal vehicle.

Evo tells CityNews Vancouver it has seen strong growth in membership sign-ups since January and things have really picked up since April, when gas prices started shattering records.

“We saw quite a jump from March to April and a very significant jump in May, so we just closed out May and it was very strong for us. We’re also seeing June — we’re a week in — and we’re seeing very strong sign-up numbers too. It’s definitely correlating with things getting a lot more expensive,” explains the company’s Dave Wharf.

He quantifies “strong” as a few hundred over the previous months, but adds from a percentage point of view, it’s up about 20 per cent month over month.

Evo Car Share. (CityNews/Lasia Kretzel)

“Everything is expensive now and I think everybody is looking at their expenses and their household income and figuring, ‘What do I need, what do I want and what are the options?’ And that’s why Evo has been great for residents. Primarily, because we allow people to get rid of that cost of having their own vehicle and allow them to pay as they go. I think some people do look at gas prices and say, ‘Wow, it’s really gone up this week, maybe I’ll figure out a different way to get around.'”

Wharf says they have 1,900 vehicles across New Westminster, Vancouver, the North Shore, some airport parking, some areas of Burnaby and in Victoria. They’d like to expand, but the ongoing car shortage is making that difficult.

“There are challenges with getting more cars these days, especially in the quantities we look for. It’s made my job more complicated. In the past, we’ve been able to get cars quite easily and add them to the fleet but that is not the case anymore, so when we do get them, they come in dribs and drabs. Expansion-wise, we’re always looking at different places we can serve. Victoria is our newest city, and so we’re looking at, ‘Is there more we can do there?’ But, no for sure plans at this point.”

Right now, the charge is 45 cents a minute, $16/hr. and $99 a day. He wouldn’t say if that rate is going to go up as the price of gas goes up, adding they’re keeping an eye on things. Wharf also suggests people search “Evo promos” online in a bid to save money and not always pay the full sign-up rate.

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