Expert Interview with Tiffany Heimpel on Smart City Living for Mint

Living in a big city has plenty of advantages - shorter commutes, the opportunity to earn more and endless possibilities for dining out and entertainment.

But with all those perks, there can be a roadblock or two, and one of the largest ones is learning how to spend wisely.

"I think the biggest challenge to making ends meet in a city is that there isn't just one challenge," says Tiffany Heimpel of She's So Savvy. "In a city, the possibilities are endless so you can go through money anywhere."

To survive and thrive, you need to decide how you will spend your money to make your lifestyle work for you - and that can be tough, she adds.

Tiffany recently checked in with us to share how she's managed to live large while spending wisely in Toronto. Here's what she has to say about making the most of urban living without going broke:

Tell us about She's So Savvy...when and why did you start your site?

I started the site in 2011 in response to friends' inquires about how to live life on a budget. Many friends I had lived in Toronto and had good jobs but were finding it hard to make ends meet. They wanted to shop, dine out and partake in the city's entertainment, but they also wanted to save money for down the road or pay off existing debt.

Who should be reading it?

Our primary audience is women ages 25-35 in Toronto. Following that, we have men 25-35 and then women 35-45. Mostly, it's people like myself, though, who are interested in living a good life - they just don't want to go broke doing it!

Given how expensive it can be to live in them, what are the advantages of living in a big city? Why is it worthwhile to spend the extra money?

It's a matter of choice. If you want to live in a city, recognize the advantage is you likely will also be making more money in your job. That being said, the cost of living is also higher, so your net take-home salary might not be as high as if you lived outside of the city.

However, in a city as expensive as it is to live, there are also a plethora of free options for entertainment, cheap public transportation and cheap food. Additionally, if you're living outside of the city, you likely spend a lot of time commuting, and that's time you can never get back!

You're writing from Toronto...what are some of your favorite things to do in Toronto that don't cost a mint?

So many! There's a festival every weekend, so I love to check out the various music, art and food festivals that don't cost a cent. In the summer, many places do outdoor film screenings at night, so those are a blast to go to, as you just bring your blanket and a thermos and enjoy a film under the stars! I also love to have people over whereby everyone brings a dish and we enjoy a meal together at home before we head out to check out a new lounge or bar.

What are your go-to spots when you want to splurge?

Personally, I love to splurge on nice clothes, shoes and bags. However, I don't love to pay full price, so I like to check out Fashionably Yours or Remix Clothing on Queen Street West, which both have designer consignment. I've gotten Hermes scarves at Fashionably Yours for less than $150! I also love a good steak, so I'll head to The Keg or Canyon Creek for a great dinner every once in a while.

What are some of the easiest ways you've found you can save money in Toronto?

Just being aware. If friends are heading out for dinner and I don't want to spend money on dinner but I want to see them, I'll eat at home and join them later for drinks. Or if I'm really trying to manage my budget, I'll work on cash only for a few weeks. I'll set my limit for the week, take it out of the ATM and when it's gone, it's gone! I'll also walk many more places and do my best not to take cabs.

What are some things you've found are tough to save on in the city?

I'm a homeowner now, and my husband and I are going through a massive renovation. I've found that it is well worth finding someone reputable who may cost a bit more but will get the job done right and efficiently the first time. In Toronto specifically, contractors have a terrible reputation, and it's mostly because there are no regulations. If you find someone good, it's worth paying them to get the job done!

What advice can you offer to other wannabe city dwellers on creating a realistic budget for themselves and/or their family?

Just stick to the budget and live below your means. If you can afford to pay $3,000 a month in housing (mortgage or rent), find something for $2,000-$2,500 and save the rest. This way you're always building your savings so if anything happens, you're not stuck. You don't have to compare yourself to anyone; live below your means and you'll be well ahead!

We see your expecting a baby soon (congratulations!)...what have you done to prepare your budget to accommodate your little addition?

Thank you! As soon as we found out we were having a baby, we went through our budget to determine what the extra costs were and how we would accommodate them. We looked at our income in a few different scenarios to determine where we could realistically scale back. Our biggest preparation was putting everything on paper so we could see where our money goes. We had a realistic conversation about what this would cost us, so hopefully there will be fewer surprises. As money can be one the biggest stressors in any relationships, we've always had a very open conversation about money, which helps us manage life changes easily.

Follow Tiffany on Twitter and Pinterest.