Everything is Better in the Burbs….Sorta!

Downtown Toronto – View From Sheraton Hotel

WTF is with all the hype of living in the city?

I think if I hear another person say that “living in the burbs” is for suckers, and it’s all about living in the downtown city core – I think I’m going to find the nearest rooftop and jump. OK! I’m joking about the jumping part, but seriously what’s up with all who think that if you don’t live in the concrete jungle, you’re a nobody. Seriously, get over yourself!

Being a singleton and having lived on my own for the past four years, I don’t live the high and glamorous city life that every other person makes it out to be. Instead I live in a 40 year old apartment building, own my 1,000 sq ft 2 bedroom condo on the sixth floor with a glamorous unobstructed view of the CN Tower from my office and bedroom, and a balcony that’s large enough to park my car. Furthermore, it takes me 15 minutes to work – 20 minutes back with very minor traffic, my parking spot is included with my apartment, and have a full separate dining room – something that you can’t get with these new modern condos.

By not living downtown I do have to drive to everything including schools, local amenities such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and video stores, but when I step onto my balcony past 8pm I don’t hear any traffic, sirens, people yelling or any of that crap. It’s totally quiet bliss, peace and serenity.

I absolutely love living the burbs life, but as I get older I have to wonder what the F is all the hype about living the downtown life of daily hustle and bustle?

Living in suburbia offers way more space then you’ll ever get in any place downtown – unless you own a penthouse with a rooftop terrace, but then again I’m not on your level and you’re living the life of the rich and famous.  The other aspect about the suburbs that I absolutely love is the convenience and variety of shopping – living downtown you’re limited to shopping at the same stores, and generally paying more than if you shopped and compared.

I can’t imagine not doing any weekly shopping at stores such as a Home Depot and Wal-Mart. Honestly, Home Depot has become my second home, and some even know me by name, but that’s a whole other story. These type of stores you don’t get in the downtown core, instead you’re limited to mini stores that charge an arm and a leg for whatever you’re buying.

I enjoy discount shopping and I love buying necessity items such as toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and other household items on sale.  This type of shopping is only available in the suburbs.  The shopping choices are definitely limited when you live in the downtown core.

So, you’re still going to tell me downtown living is better?

Okay, I do have a heart, and there are two sides to every story. Downtown living does benefit some, and offers certain things that suburbia doesn’t. For example, if you work and live downtown, you likely don’t need a car. Therefore, you save thousands of dollars in insurance and gas alone, and potentially a car payment. This money could be used towards travel, more expensive downtown location, savings and investments.

See, I told you that there are some benefits.

The Big Picture

In real life most downtown residents and suburbanites don’t feel like they’re trading space for time. Rather, the choice often comes down to personal preferences. Some people want a backyard big enough for a hockey rink, while others see extra bathrooms as just more to clean. A 2006 census showed that more people are moving out of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal to the surrounding suburbs than the other direction. Most of the people moving are new parents aged 30 to 34. So, I still wonder why there are 21 (by my count, and I’m sure there are many more) going up in the downtown area of Toronto? Could the census be wrong?

Living in the burbs is much cheaper – home ownership and general everyday living expenses. However, I don’t think the differences are huge. I think a lot of it comes down to the quality of life one is looking for. We all got our personal wish lists, so if having more room is important to you, then burbs may be for you, however if you like that sushi spot across the street from you, then downtown living just might be your thing.

One thing is certain that we all look for is more TIME. Like I said in many of my past articles, time is something that none of us can get back. Losing hours a day in commute is not worth it for anyone, so downtown living or suburbs may be for your after all. Either way, I think one’s job plays a big factor on where they live. My job is not anywhere near the downtown core, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to live in the concrete jungle, if circumstances were different I’m sure I’d be more for downtown living.

Final Thoughts

It can be very difficult to get around the suburbs on foot and it is hard to buy a 24 pack of toilet paper if you have to carry it home on foot. If you have a car then shopping in the suburbs is definitely less expensive than shopping in the city.  In the suburbs we have the luxury of driving to our store of choice, when we shop in the downtown core everything is more expensive because we are paying for convenience.

Readers, is downtown living made out to all it’s be?



Photo Credit (wvs)


  1. Telepresence has rendered city cores obsolete. It used to be you had to live there to participate in certain high density, high pay industries like finance. But these days that’s no longer true. I can trade in Chicago from Colorado at the cost of an internet connection and about 200 milliseconds (faster than human reaction time) in latency.
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  2. I live in the St. Louis area, which is very different from other cities. EVERYONE lives in the suburbs, while hardly no one lives in the city. And if you live in the city, then you are weird.
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    • I been to St. Louis twice within the last four years. Burbs are gorgeous and amazing shopping.
      Downtown is hilarious and can be scary at night, especially near Busch stadium, where locals come cash their $50 welfare checks at a place where you buy booze, and in return they get $50 worth of booze.
      Living la vida loca :)

  3. I think it can be a unique opportunity for certain people in specific stages of their lives. I don’t think I could have kids and live down in the city…but if I was a younger person that was still into the night-life then I definitely could envision it.
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  4. We’ve lived most of our lives in the burbs, or at least outside of the proper “downtown” areas… But I like having friends that live downtown, too! Every once in a while, drive downtown, park in their garage, have a blast, crash on their couch, and drive home safely in the morning without having had to worry about parking tickets or other craziness. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Plus, as long as you buy a round, nobody seems to mind you sleeping on the couch. =)
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  5. When I lived in Chicago I loved it. I was a 5 minute walk to bars and restaurants. I just loved having everything at my fingertips. Now did city life get old, of course it did. That is why we moved after 5 years.

    • I can see how the city life can get dull pretty quickly.
      There’s nothing wrong with it, but city life is just so fast paced. There’s more to life than the hustle and bustle. Maybe I’ll save my self a heart attack ..LOL

  6. I think it depends on what is important to you. I lived in the suburbs all my life, but as I get closer to retirement I want the services of the city. I am ready to give up the car etc.
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  7. I’m totally with you on this one Mr. Fox. Maybe I’m just not hip and trendy or perhaps just damned right miserable, but I cannot understand the love some have of being where the action is. I couldn’t afford the valium to maintain that way of life.
    As you said with some city workers, I guess it suits them for those reasons you pointed out, but outside of that I just can’t understand how people can take it. I think what you spend in increased rent more than pays for a car as city rents can be extortionate.
    I’m not a Canadian but I think it probably applies to most cities throughout the world. Everything you need is never far away these days and frankly I think that working and living all in the same area could be described as dull, but each to their own I guess.
    I have lived briefly in downtown locations and all I could ever hear day and night were car horns, people having domestic disputes and had a lot of fumes to breathe in. Another point is that things are changing, no scrap that changed. Many can do work from home these days. We don’t all have the luxury of being allowed too I know but for me, there is little to discuss, its suburban life for me without a doubt.
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    • Hi Tubby!
      This does apply to mostly anywhere where a large metropolitan area exists within a city.
      Downtown has it’s positives too, but it’s not the be all and end all of living.


  8. I live in a town with a population of 10,000 people, so it’s a bit hard to have a dog in the fight on this one. In one sense, I would love to not have a car,but I also like my peace and quite and being able to let the dogs out in the yard rather than having to go out on a leash and find a park. I’ll vote for the burbs.
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  9. I live in the suburbs in Vancouver. It’s about 30 minutes into the downtown core, and I LOVE my neighbourhood. But that being said, if I could afford to live downtown, I probably would consider it. While the housing in the downtown core is dominated by condos, there are lovely walk-ups and townhouses as well. Plus being downtown means I’d be closer to the mountains. :)

    But like other commenters said, it’s all about preference. I’m all about walkability and not having to drive anywhere.
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    • Like yourself I’m about 20min from Toronto’s downtown core, but I enjoy not living in the concrete jungle and getting into my car when I have to do whatever. I have stores within walking distance, but then the car comes in greater use for the bigger purchases. Walk ability in Vancouver is good as there is rarely snow. I’m certain your answer would differ little with the -30 weather and snow in February in Toronto.

  10. i have friends who are the hipster sort, who wouldn’t even consider living out in the suburbs.. I think they somehow have the impression that their car will magically transform into a mini-van, if they cross the interstate loop that surrounds the city here in our town… but it is silly…

    it works well for the single types, but the reality is that the suburbs are a much better place to raise a family. there is less crime, better schools, and many more family-friendly things to do..
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  11. Hmmm, I donno man! I don’t think I can ever live in the burbs unless I have a large family due to the expensiveness of private school tuition in SF.

    If I am to pay property taxes, I at least want some education out of it!

    Perhaps the dream is to be rich enough to have a sweet pad in the city, without too many neighbors instead?
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  12. I don’t think I would ever move downtown anywhere to be honest. I live on the outskirts of the GTA and that works for me. I understand all the hoopla and being part of the in crowd when you are single, young and have no kids but even so at what price are you willing to pay for that? Great post and your place sounds pretty darn awesome! Cheers Mr.CBB
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  13. Ugh I hate suburbia!

    I love living downtown. I don’t understand the appeal of tons of space — why do you want a balcony big enough to park your car on? what’s that for?? Backyards and gardens and houses that all look identical. Boo! Commuting? NO FREAKIN’ WAY.

    Home depot? Walmart? why? If you lived downtown you could go to the Farmer’s Market, or support a small local store where the owner is the one that greets you and welcomes you in, instead of a 15 year old receiving minimum wage hating that his parents made him get this part-time job in order to have a cellphone.
    One of the things I love most about living downtown and frequenting the shops, restaurants and bars there is when the staff welcomes me in with genuine interest in me as a customer. I work hard in my job, I appreciate that they work hard in theirs. I have no qualms about giving them my business.

    Suburbia makes me sad. Urban sprawl is a huge problem in my city. Its detrimental to the environment. Public transit can’t keep up with the number of people that want to build McMansions on the outskirts of the city because it is omg-so-cheap. Many new residential communities don’t even build sidewalks. How messed up is that? Everyone drives so they feel they don’t need to. It’s the saddest thing.
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  14. We live 30 min. from the downtown core. We have a 0.5 acre lot and tons of peace and quiet. I love nature too much to live in the city again.

    We used to own a condo in the city, we love the space our new home.

    Good post man.

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  15. In my youth (i.e. 25-28), I did live in the city. It was great!
    However as you mentioned Eddie, it does get old quickly.

    Now living in suburbia, my wife, I, and our kiddos (and dog) all enjoy the heck out of being able to relax and completely unwind. Of course I know this is completely relative to one’s own lifestyle and where they are or want to be. In our case, it only took 1.5 acres of land and about 2400 sq. ft. of living space.

    A benefit my wife often mentions (and she grew up on a postage stamp sized yard), is that you may want to be able to sit on your deck/patio and relax, without worrying that a neighbor on either side of you is going to come out and try doing the same thing, making you feel like there’s absolutely no privacy.

    For me, just letting the kids open up the back door and go jump on the 15 ft diameter trampoline, or play on their swingset/playhouse that sits about 8ft off the ground with a 14ft slide, or swing a golf club in their own back yard without hitting a neighbor’s house, is what I wanted for our kids.

    Will it get to be too much, perhaps someday. But only time will tell. :-)
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  16. I’m a HUGE fan of suburbia, simply because I don’t like noise, dirt, and feeling thisclose to other people. Not that I’m antisocial, but I just dont need to live with people on top, beside, and underneath me.

    I understand wanting to be close to things, but you can live in a city and have to commute for longer than I do from the suburbs, just because the traffic in the city is so bad and getting from point a to b is hard. I love the feeling of grass between my toes, letting my dogs out and not worrying about them being hit by a car, etc.
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  17. I’ve lived in the city, suburbs, and very very rural America. I have to say, I like parts of all of them. The peacefulness of country living is awesome. The city is full of life. However, I’d have to go with the suburbs as the best place to live. You are between both, and you’re just a short ride away from either.
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  18. That’s why I like the rural burbs. I’m five houses down from the grocery store, post office, pizza joint, two diners, two bars, an Italian restaurant and most importantly, my lawyer.

    I commute 20 minutes to work, but honestly, if I were to work in the city, I’d probably spend as much time walking. I understand city living, but don’t understand the upturned noses to those who like wide open spaces.
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  19. This is one of the top posts you have written. I honestly love living urban vs suburban (at the moment). With our little girl we can do so many things quickly . Having said that once she is older, we would like to be in a different neighbourhood but still be urban.
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  20. I’ve done both and it really depends on what you want out of life. If you enjoy going out, it really sucks in the suburbs lol!

    I’ve done both in Toronto. I enjoyed the downtown living much more to be honest.
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    • Hi Martin,
      I haven’t done the downtown thing, but then again it wouldn’t appeal to me due to the location of my job and all other activities.
      In terms of going out and nightlife, the only thing that sucks about is either you have to drive or the cab rides are more expensive. In terms of places to go for dinner, dance, and anything in between – you can find a lot of great places in the burbs.

  21. I read this the other day but forgot to comment…I also love the suburbs. I think it really depends on the stage of life you’re in too…Bridget hates the burbs right now but might appreciate these advantages when she has kids/family or invests in real estate. DT is fun and vivacious. I have the best of both worlds, I live in the burbs (Cole Harbour, where you get to grow up beside NHL all stars lol) but work in the city (Halifax). I’m in the city every day, get to capitalize on their amenities but leave for the quietness every day.
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  22. I’ve never lived in the CBD – in Auckland it’s pretty common to live in the suburbs. I love it – more space, better and cheaper choices in food shopping.

    I also work in the suburbs, so not having to commute into the city centre rocks!
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  23. I agree: it’s a personal preference. I live in the country now, but I’d love to live in the middle of the city. I feed off that hustle/bustle.
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  24. I live in the ‘burbs, about 45 minutes from the nearest city. Honestly, I see it as a trade of in time – in reverse!

    The cost of living is of much higher in the city that I would have to work much longer just to maintain my standard of living than I do in the burbs. I’d rather have a bit of a commute, and have my weekends to myself.
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  25. Have lived in downtown Toronto for most of my adult life. When I bought, I bought a small house with a large garden and a garage (don’t have a car) in East York, a former suburb. It takes me less than 20 minutes by subway to get to Yonge and Bloor, Home Depot is a walk or a five minute bus ride, and the subway is a 10 minute walk. It feels like suburbia to me, but my suburban friends assure me it isn’t. It is quiet, not congested, friendly, well-serviced, and I like it. My back yard is private and feels like my personal park. I enjoy not needing a car. It feels like the best of the suburbia you describe with the convenience of downtown.