I hadn't checked on this thread for quite awhile, but to answer the question about living frugally here - it's actually super easy, by far the easiest place I've lived so far to find cheap housing and food!
Housing - there are so many options. I live in a housing co-op in Gastown, which is cheap cheap cheap($732/month, utils included, which I split with my boyfriend), and there are tons of these all over the city - they're run by the members and nobody's making a profit, so the rent in exactly what it costs to run the place, i.e. mortgage, utilities, etc. Before this, I always rented suites, always private - some basement suites, some suites in houses that had been converted into 5 or 6 apartments. I paid between $450 and $625 depending on which place it was, and lived in Kerrisdale, Mount Pleasant, and north Cambie street area. I constantly see Craigslist posting for things in the range even now - there's just no reason to pay a ton of money, when there are so many options here.
Food - We spend $230/month total on food, including toilet paper and stuff, and eat like KINGS - we eat absolutely whatever we want, but I make everything from scratch from base ingredients, which cost next to nothing. No Frills, Costco, TnT, and Sunrise Market are great cheap stores to shop at. We don't have bikes, but we have a cat stroller that doubles as a grocery carrying cart whenever we need it so lug home a 20lb bag of flour or do a bigger shopping.
Transportation - We purposely live and work downtown. I walk to work, and buy one book of bus tickets a month for $21. My boyfriend works a bit further and buys a monthly pass(81), which we can share on Sundays, so we try to run errands together then.