It has been eighteen months since we moved to Alberta and there are three things I wish I knew before we made the decision to move.
Your first thought might be the cold…
“But what will you do in the winter?” was one of the most common questions we were asked when we decided to move from Vancouver to Alberta.
Surprisingly, winters are not bad. As I write this we are going into our second Alberta winter, there is no dread or angst. It’s cold alright, but it’s also sunny and dry. That being said there is a nasty side effect of winter and it’s not the cold.
The Most Annoying Part About Living in Alberta
The best advice I can give you is to make sure you do not have a vehicle with an expensive windshield… sadly rock chips are a part of life here.
Alberta winters get a fair amount of snow which leads to snow plows putting “gravel” on the road. This leads to an annual windshield massacre.
I can confirm by the end of our first winter our formerly pristine windshield was on it’s way out.
I have read that you can purchase rock deflectors or films for windshields but we have yet to explore those options.
Either way it’s annoying!
Leaving Everything and Everyone Behind
We moved to Alberta while expecting our second born. I can confidently say it would have been far easier dealing with a newborn and a toddler if we had our family around us.
One of the biggest drawbacks to moving was leaving all of our friends and family behind. Everyone around us was welcoming when we came here but it does (at least for us) take time to build a new social circle.
Eighteen months later it looks as if some of our family will move out here which is exciting news! A few friends have also moved to Calgary and more are considering leaving BC.
This combined with our growing social circle here has made things far easier.
Last and Certainly the Worst Part of Moving to Alberni
Hands down my biggest complaint would be the utility bills in Alberta.
The cost of energy (gas and electricity) generally seems to be higher but the worst is the administrative fees and delivery charges.
Overall our experience is that the cost of living is far lower out here and our net costs are lower but colder winters combined with higher admin/delivery charges makes for some nasty utility bills.
The utilities for our house come to roughly $375 per month on average. In the winter our gas bill is high, in the summer our electricity bill is high. We certainly could cut costs in the summer by skipping air conditioning but damn it was hot last summer!
Overall with the lower rents and real estate costs we are able to absorb these extra utility costs and still come out ahead but it is something you should be aware of.
Our house was built in 1976 and certainly could use some efficiency upgrades. With the lower cost of living we are saving and hoping we can renovate/improve the efficiency of our home in the next few years. Long term this should help bring our bills down.
Below are examples of our gas and electricity bills. You can see the cost of the energy as well as the admin/delivery charges.
You will notice our cost of electricity was insane because we were on the variable rate.
We are in the process of switching over to fixed rates and there are some great recourses for making these choices in Alberta.
Gives you the ability to look at all of your options for fixed price contracts and to look at example bills. There are some options with breakage penalties, incentives ect but there are also options that can be broken at any time (take the fixed price and break it if costs drop substantially).
Gives a breakdown of the electricity rates in Alberta by provider and more importantly shows which admin/delivery charges are fixed by the Alberta Utility Commission and which charges are distributor specific.
Here is the breakdown of natural gas rates in Alberta by provider and a breakdown of the fees.
Moving to Alberta is Not for Everyone but We Know It Was the Right Choice for Us
By moving to Alberta we were able to buy a home we could never dream of purchasing in BC (while staying minutes from a city).
I know confidently it’s not the right choice for everyone. The winters are sunny but cold, the air is dryer and there are no mountains in sight (of Edmonton at least).
All of that being said the cost of living is far lower, the people are friendly here and we are able to live our lives without the constant threat of being evicted by our landlord only to see our cost to rent double.
If you are considering making the move and buying your home you will need to know how qualifying for a mortgage works when you move provinces. Everything you need to know is here.
I hope our experience helps you with your decision making. If you have any questions, reach out and I’ll do my best to help.