How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in Vancouver?
Hello, and welcome to the inaugural interview in the How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interview series! Part interview, part spending report, this series will introduce us to FIRE* seekers from all over the world.
They’ll reveal their essential spending and money-saving tips—all to help us learn new ways to save on our own expenses. As a bonus, we’ll also get to discover the unique advantages and challenges of living in different places around the globe.
*FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early. It’s also known as FI—financial independence. For more info, see my FI School series—it’ll teach you everything you need to know about FI (and FIRE).
About the interview series
I created an intro page for this interview series to help explain what it’s about, what’s included (or not) and why. I’ll also link to all the interviews from the intro page—so check back there to see the entire collection.
Jump to the series intro: How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life? (The Interview Series)
Interview #1: Chrissy in Vancouver, BC
I’m kicking off this series by interviewing none other than… ME! That’s right—as I announced in a previous post, I’m finally revealing my family’s annual spending.
This will be a good test-run so I can hopefully have all the kinks worked out for my first interviewee! (Will it be you? If you’re interested, fill out this form and I’ll send you more details!)
Part 1: Getting to know you
Tell us about you and your family
I’m a stay-at-home mom to two boys (aged 12 and 15) and a naughty Shiba Inu named Mika. My husband (aka ‘M’) works in the video game industry. We love to travel, eat, and spend lots of quality time with our family and friends.
I blog here at Eat Sleep Breathe FI and co-host a podcast called Explore FI Canada. I’m also an admin for the ChooseFI Canada and ChooseFI Vancouver Facebook groups. (Can you tell I’m a little obsessed with FIRE?)
Where are you in your journey to FIRE?
Along with our net worth, this is one of my most closely-guarded secrets. To protect my husband’s job security, I don’t reveal our progress to FIRE. My husband loves his job and doesn’t plan to immediately retire—even after we reach FIRE.
I’d hate for him to be passed up for a promotion because someone thinks he doesn’t ‘need’ the money. Because of this, our FIRE date will remain a secret! (However, I will reveal that I’m 42 and we hope to reach FIRE in our 40s. )
What type of FIRE are you aiming for? (FIRE, lean FIRE, or fat FIRE*)
How Chrissy defines FIRE, Lean FIRE, and Fat FIRE
Some people define Lean FIRE as under $40k in annual spending; FIRE as $40–$100k in annual spending; and Fat FIRE as $100k+ in annual spending.
However, I prefer looser definitions that are not based on hard numbers. That’s because $100k could be Fat FIRE in a small Canadian town but Lean FIRE in San Francisco. That said, here are my definitions:
- Lean FIRE: The essentials with little or no discretionary spending.
- FIRE: The essentials plus a comfortable amount of discretionary spending.
- Fat FIRE: The essentials plus a luxurious amount of discretionary spending.
We’re aiming for what I call ‘overweight FIRE’—somewhere between FIRE and fat FIRE. Personally, I’d be happy with FIRE, but my husband prefers to have more of a cushion. As per his wishes, we’ve padded our FIRE number so it’ll be a little ‘overweight’.
Tell us about your living situation
We live in a detached, single-family house which we own. We have a two-bedroom suite in the basement that we use for our house hack—hosting international homestay students.
Our house is located close to our kids’ schools, but we’re unfortunately not in walking distance to other amenities. This means we need to drive to pick up groceries, library books, etc. However, my husband currently works from home, so we’re a one-car family. (I don’t count my husband’s ‘toy’ car as a commuter vehicle!)
Why did you choose to live in Vancouver?
Both sides of our large, tight-knit family live in and around Vancouver. We have deep roots here; it’d be heartbreaking for us (and our families) if we were to move away. I’m also a born and bred Vancouver girl—I love this city and can’t imagine calling any other place home!
Despite Vancouver’s notoriety as the most expensive city in Canada, we’ve still found ways to live a good life here… while also pursuing FIRE. In this interview, I’ll share how we’ve been able to minimize our expenses without depriving ourselves.
You can also check out one of my most popular posts for even more ideas to save money when living in a high cost of living area.
Part 2: The expenses
Alright—this is the section with all the juicy details! You’ll not only get to see the numbers, but you’ll also learn my family’s best money-saving tips. But before we get started, I have some caveats to share:
Important notes about the numbers
- Only essential expenses are included.
- Discretionary expenses (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
- Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar.
- Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
- In this interview, the home currency is Canadian dollars.
- For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter for each expense.
1. How much does housing cost in Vancouver?
Technically, we have a mortgage, but I don’t include it here. That’s because our mortgage is actually an investment loan. (We were mortgage-free, then we took out a new mortgage and invested the funds in the stock market.)
To be clear, this is simply known as ‘leveraged investing’—it is not the Smith Manoeuvre. That’s because our entire mortgage is used to invest, so there’s no ‘manoeuvering’ like there is with the Smith Manoeuvre.
Using our home equity to invest isn’t a money-saving tip per se, but it’s an incredible way for us to put our stagnant home equity to use. It’s my favourite tactic to turn the high cost of Vancouver real estate from a huge negative into an enormous advantage!
Note: The Smith Manoeuvre (and any form of leveraged investing) is not for everyone and can be very risky. Proceed with an abundance of research, education, and caution!
Property tax ($521/month; $6,251/year)
Property taxes in the Vancouver area are quite high. There’s not much we can do to reduce this expense, but we manage to save some money by:
- Applying for our homeowner’s grant every year. (Be sure to check if you need to apply for it annually like we do.)
- Paying with a credit card to earn 1% in points. (Contact me for my Google Doc which outlines how we do this without paying fees! I don’t share this ‘hack’ openly on the blog, in case it becomes too popular and gets shut down!)
- Deducting a portion of the property tax against our homestay hosting income, my blog and podcast income, and M’s work-from-home expenses.
Strata/HOA fees ($0)
We live in a detached home, so we don’t pay strata or HOA fees.
Home insurance ($75/month; $900/year)
This is our second-biggest housing-related expense, but I found an amazing insurer that cut our costs in half! The name of the insurer is Square One and we’ve been happily with them since 2017.
If you live in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or Ontario, I highly recommend Square One for your tenant, home, and condo insurance needs.
More tips to save on your home insurance
While we were thrilled with the initial quote from Square One, we saved even more on our home insurance by:
- Increasing our deductible.
- Removing coverage that we don’t need. (This is one of my favourite things about Square One—most insurers don’t allow for much or any customization.)
- Fine-tuning our coverage (more for some items, less for others).
- Paying annually instead of monthly.
Home maintenance ($117/month; $1,404/year)
This category includes home maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and improvements; household goods and supplies; furniture, appliances, computers and mobile devices.
To save on these expenses, we try to DIY as much as possible. (We also recruit our kids to help with many of these tasks!) Labour costs are very high in Vancouver, so DIYing saves us a lot of money.
Sometimes, DIY isn’t an option and we need to outsource. In these situations, we always get at least three quotes from highly-reviewed companies/contractors. (I use Google, Yelp, and Nextdoor for reviews.)
This gives us a range of prices so that we know we’re paying a reasonable amount. Note that we don’t simply pick the cheapest quote. Instead, we look for the best value—good service and quality for the price.
Related: In How to Reach FI on One Income, With Kids, in a High Cost of Living Area, I share more about our DIY home improvements and other ways we save money.
2. How much does transportation cost in Vancouver?
A note about our vehicle expenses
Insurance, gas and maintenance costs are for my Mazda 5 only. Since M can continue to work from home indefinitely, we’ll likely remain a single vehicle household (even post-COVID).
Note: We also have a ‘recreational’ vehicle (M’s classic Mustang). However, given that it’s not an essential expense, I don’t include any of the expenses for it in this spending report.
Vehicle insurance ($160/month; $1,920/year)
Auto insurance is quite expensive in Vancouver—even with safe driving discounts. To save on this expense, we:
- Set our deductibles to the highest amount allowed.
- Request new quotes every 1–2 years.
- Only claim major incidents on our insurance.
- DIY or pay out-of-pocket for minor incidents.
- Pay annually instead of monthly.
- Drive with care and caution, to maintain our safe driving discounts.
Gas ($133/month; $1,596/year)
Even when M commuted to work everyday, our gas consumption was quite low. Still, gas is somewhat pricey in Vancouver, so we try to save on fuel costs by:
- Walking to/from school.
- Avoiding single-destination trips.
- Planning errands on the way to/from our ultimate destination.
- Using Google Maps or our GPS to plan the most efficient route.
- Driving mindfully (avoiding jackrabbit starts and hard stops).
- Driving at the speed limit.
- Carpooling when possible.
- Parking in one spot, then walking to nearby destinations instead of moving the car each time.
Vehicle maintenance ($33/month; $396/year)
We do okay in this category by trying to DIY as much maintenance on our cars as we can, including:
- Using YouTube videos to learn how to DIY our car maintenance.
- Getting help from experienced friends and family for more challenging repairs.
- Purchasing replacement parts on our own, then changing them ourselves (e.g. brakes, air filters, sensors, bulbs, batteries, etc.)
- Purchasing an OBD reader so we can diagnose and reset engine error lights ourselves.
- Calling around to find the best prices for oil changes. (Surprisingly, for my Mazda 5, it’s my dealership!)
- Taking advantage of friends and family discounts (from M’s company) when getting servicing.
Bike maintenance ($0)
Bikes don’t fit in our lives for commuting right now, but hopefully, they’ll become a large part of our recreational expenses one day!
Parking and tolls ($3/month; $36/year)
We spend very little on parking and nothing on tolls (there are almost no toll roads/bridges in the Vancouver area). However, when we have to park our car in a busy/expensive area, here’s how we save:
- Look for free parking zones a few blocks away, then walk to our destination. (You’d be surprised how much free parking you can find by doing this—even in busy areas like downtown and near hospitals.)
- Use Parkopedia to find the cheapest parking rates in the area. (Tip: toggle street parking on to see rates for street meters—they’re often much cheaper.)
Transit ($2/month; $24/year)
Unfortunately, transit for four costs more than driving, so we rarely take transit as a family. However, it’s quite affordable for one person to ride the bus in Vancouver. M and I take the bus if either of us needs to head downtown on our own.
3. How much does food cost in Vancouver?
Groceries ($550/month; $6,600/year)
In our household, groceries are our biggest essential expense. That’s kind of crazy! Even so, I think we do a pretty good job of saving on our grocery bills. Here’s how we do it:
- Stock up on sale items, then store or freeze them for later use.
- Buy in bulk when it makes sense (and only if we can eat up the larger amount of food).
- Buy bulk sizes of snack foods (instead of individually-wrapped packs) and portion them out ourselves into containers. (It’s more eco-friendly that way too!)
- Make weekly meal plans based on what’s on sale or in our freezer.
- Do most of our shopping at Superstore—our favourite discount grocer.
- Shop at ethnic grocery stores (their meat and produce tend to be extremely fresh and well-priced).
- Watch for amazing deals from Flashfood*. (Read my full Flashfood review for more info.)
- Use Flipp to look for sale items.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it (in other words: avoid browsing and impulse purchases).
- Take advantage of price-matching policies. (Flipp is really handy for this.)
*Use my referral code, CHRIWAMP when you sign up for Flashfood, and we’ll each receive a $5 credit when you make your first purchase of at least $10!
- Eat less meat and more plants and plant-based food. (The texture and neutral flavour of mushrooms and firm tofu make them great meat substitutes!)
- Intermittent fast using the 16/8 schedule (M and I—not the kids). This means we only eat two meals a day, which reduces our overall food consumption by 17%!
- Cook as much as possible from scratch (so we almost never buy jarred sauces, prepared meals, or meal kits).
- Limit juice and pop. Instead, we drink water or tea 95% of the time. (Except for my husband, who drinks a tad less water and a little more alcohol!)
Food and fridge management
- Follow my own advice and regularly use these three fridge ‘hacks’.
- Diligently manage our fridge inventory (keep track of what’s inside, eat up leftovers, use up ingredients and sauces, etc.)
- Reimagine or freeze leftovers to avoid getting tired of them before we eat them up.
Eating out ($204/month; $2,448/year)
We are Foodies with a capital F! We LOVE eating out (and can’t wait to get back to it once COVID is over). However, eating out can add up and pack on the pounds.
To keep this expense reasonable, we try to avoid eating out due to lack of planning, laziness, or bad habits. Instead, we try to reserve eating out for special occasions, to try new restaurants, or to enjoy food that’s difficult to prepare at home.
Adopting this approach not only cuts down on our eating out costs but also brings other positives:
- We don’t feel deprived.
- We appreciate the value of eating out that much more.
- We savour the food and experience guilt-free.
- We can afford to splurge a little when we do eat out.
4. How much do utilities and bills cost in Vancouver?
The ‘one-n-done’ method to save on recurring expenses
I was inspired to tackle our recurring expenses head-on when I heard about the ‘one-n-done’ method of saving on the Doughroller Podcast. The premise is this: by making one change to one bill, you’ll save each and every month going forward.
As you tackle more and more of your bills, the savings really add up. Even better—these changes can save you hundreds per month while having little to no impact on your lifestyle. That’s a no-brainer to me!
It’s why I often recommend working on these expenses as an easy way to get the FIRE journey started. I’ll go through each of our recurring bills below and share how we got and keep them low.
Natural gas ($92/month; $1,104/year)
Our hot water tank, cooktop, and boiler (which powers our in-floor radiant heating) all run on natural gas. To keep our natural gas costs as low as possible, we try to conserve energy by:
- Washing laundry in cold water.
- Keeping showers short.
- Only running the dishwasher when it’s full.
- Being mindful of water consumption when hand-washing dishes.
- Sealing gaps around the house.
- Adding insulation.
- Opening the shades to let the sun shine in (during the fall and winter).
- Closing the curtains to keep the heat in once the sun goes down.
- Installing programmable thermostats.
- Setting the heat lower at night and when we’re away.
- Using the toaster oven instead of the big oven.
- Cooking efficiently (for example, boiling pasta and noodles the Tightwad way).
For reference, our house was built in 2003 and is about 2,700 square feet. Two floors are above ground, and our basement is below ground.
Electricity ($54/month; $648/year)
Our electricity is provided by BC Hydro, which is (as their name implies) hydro-electric power. We’re fortunate that our electricity costs are quite affordable in Vancouver. When comparing our usage to similar homes nearby, our consumption is typically less than half what others use:
Here’s how we keep our electricity costs low:
- Hang-drying 80% of our laundry.
- Adding dry towels and dryer balls to the dryer (to fluff laundry and speed up drying).
- Only running our washer, dryer, and dishwasher with full loads.
- Sleeping in the basement during heat waves to avoid using AC.
- Maintaining our fridge and freezer to keep them running efficiently.
- Switching to LED bulbs.
- Turning off lights and electronics that we’re not using.
- Using power bars to avoid phantom energy use.
- Installing timer switches on our bathroom exhaust fans.
- Setting up timers for our Christmas lights.
- Teaching our kids to be energy-efficient and reminding them (often) of all the above!
Water and Sewer, garbage and recycling (included in property tax bill)
Our water and waste handling fees are included in our property tax bill. That’s why I don’t include the amounts here ($739 for water and $974 for sewer, garbage and recycling).
Initially, I separated these amounts from my property tax, but that was causing confusion. I’ve decided instead to only break out these fees separately if that’s how my interviewees were billed.
As far as saving money on these fees, we unfortunately don’t have any control over that. For us, we’re charged flat rates based on the type of home. (For example: single-family dwelling, single-family dwelling with suite, etc.)
To be honest, I’d prefer usage-based water and waste fees since that would likely save us money! That’s because we’re very mindful with our water consumption and waste—even though we pay the same regardless. For me, it’s just the right thing to do.
It’s not hard to have this kind of mindset when you live the FIRE life; so much of FIRE is about mindfulness and low-consumption. This is why I’m such an advocate for FIRE—it’s good for our happiness, our wallets, and the Earth. What’s not to love?
Internet ($45/month; $540/year)
We get our internet from a discount provider called Lightspeed. They’re what’s known as an internet wholesale reseller: they pay to use Telus and Shaw’s networks at wholesale rates, then resell that service to consumers.
What it means for us is much lower rates for the same internet. In the four years we’ve been with Lightspeed, our rate has not only decreased but our internet speed has also increased! In addition, we’ve never had to renegotiate our rates.
As long as we stay on the same plan, the rate doesn’t change.[efn_note]Lightspeed doesn’t guarantee this, but it’s been our experience so far.[/efn_note] We’ve been able to get lower rates for faster service by switching from ADSL service to cable internet. (Cable internet tends to be cheaper, so you’ll pay less for better speeds.)
I highly recommend switching to Lightspeed or another wholesaler (such as TekSavvy). We’ve been very happy with the service and support and can’t see ourselves ever going back to the Big Two (Telus and Shaw).
If you’re interested in switching to Lightspeed, enter my customer number (18059) as the referrer in your registration form to receive a $10 credit.
Home phone ($6/month; $72/year)
In 2016, we switched our home phone service from a Telus landline to a Fongo Home Phone VoIP line—and we’ve never looked back. We went from paying $40–$60 per month for our home phone service to $5.55 per month!
Even better: our rate has stayed the same for the entire four years we’ve been with Fongo. No renegotiations, no temporary promo rates. It’s just $5.55 (after tax) every single month.
The service and support have been excellent (though you have to remember that VoIP works a little differently from real landlines). I also like that you can take your Fongo adaptor anywhere in the world and use it to make and receive calls as if you’re still at home.[efn_note]We’ve never needed this feature, but it’s cool that it’s an option![/efn_note]
If you’re interested in switching to Fongo Home Phone and would like to support this blog, enter my email address (email@example.com) as the referrer in your registration form. Thank you!
Cell phones ($12/month; $144/year)
My family’s cell phone costs are minuscule! Here’s how we save on our cell phone bills:
Before we get into the specifics of how we save on each of our cell phone costs, here are some general tips:
- Texting and calling are cheap—data is what balloons the cost of cell plans.
- The best way to keep your cell phone costs low is to add as little data to your plan as possible.
- Use wi-fi when you’re at home and take advantage of free wi-fi hotspots when you’re out.
- Be mindful with data usage (teach your kids too).
- Go with a low-cost carrier like Public Mobile.
- If your usage is very low, use a prepaid service like 7-Eleven Speakout.
- Watch for promotions when signing up for a new plan or service.
- Continue to watch for promotions even after you become a customer.
The above tips should easily help you shave your cell phone costs down to $40 per month or less! To get your bills even lower, here are specific tips for how my entire family pays less than $15 per month for our cell services:
How we save on my cell phone costs
Late last year, I finally caved and made the switch to the Canadian FIRE community’s favourite mobile service provider—Public Mobile. For me, what sealed the deal was Public Mobile’s rewards:
- Set up pre-authorized payments and automatically start saving $2 every 30 days.
- Save $1 every 30 days after your first year. $2 after your second year, and so on.
- Use a referral code when you sign up, and you’ll receive a one-time $10 credit! (My referral code is ZZLLV8.)
- Receive $1 off your payment every 30 days for every friend you refer.
- Save up to $20 every 30 days by earning points in the Community.
With the above rewards, so many people I know have been able to get their Public Mobile bills down to $0! I’m on the cheapest $15 plan, and have already dropped my bill to $10!
If you’re interested in switching to Public Mobile, enter my referral code (ZZLLV8) to receive a $10 credit!
How we save on M’s cell phone costs
When M became a manager, he qualified for a cell plan at work. However, it wasn’t automatic—he had to prove it was something he needed, then request it. If your company covers employee cell plans, I’d suggest that you do the same. (It never hurts to ask.)
How we save on Kid 1’s cell phone costs
Kid 1 has free wi-fi at school and home. The only time he needs cell service is when he’s walking to/from school (which he’s not doing right now anyway). Even then, he rarely needs to text or call.
His cell service is more for me to call him after school (to yell at him to hurry so we can get to the orthodontist on time)! Since this happens only once every three to six months, his cellular usage is almost zero.
That’s why, for Kid 1, 7-Eleven’s prepaid Speakout service is perfect. It costs us a whopping $25 per year. It’s dirt cheap and ideal for people (like Kid 1) who need very little cell service. (You can add data, but it’s pricey for what you get. Kid 1 has no data.)
Kid 2 doesn’t have a phone yet (our kids have to wait until they’re 13). When he does, we’ll decide if he needs cell service. It all depends on whether we send them back to school or continue with remote learning.
My best tip for saving on cell service (and many other things) for kids is this: don’t cave to peer pressure (from their friends or other parents). If they must have data, get a little, but make it clear that it’s only for messaging. They can do their gaming and streaming when they have free wi-fi!
Streaming entertainment ($7/month; $88/year)
Some may argue that streaming services are not essential expenses. I’d have to agree, since I rarely watch TV and movies. However, the rest of my family would vehemently disagree! (They would gladly give up many other things before they gave up their streaming services!)
For many years, we were with Netflix, but my family claims to have watched almost everything on it! In addition, a lot of content’s been removed and added to competing streaming services. So, about a month ago, we pulled the plug on Netflix and signed up for Amazon Prime.
So far, my family has been thrilled with the offerings. As an added bonus, it’s cheaper than Netflix! I’ll continue to avoid using Prime 2-day shipping due to its substantial impact on the environment, but it’s nice for my family to enjoy some new entertainment and save some money!
5. How much do other essentials cost in Vancouver?
Life and disability insurance ($38/month; $456/year)
We’ll continue to maintain our term life insurance policy until we reach FI, but revisit and decrease our coverage every few years. This saves us on premiums and ensures that we’re not paying for more than we need.
We’re fortunate that M has enough disability coverage through his employer, so we don’t need additional coverage. For me, our families are our disability insurance! If I were to become ill or injured, we’re very fortunate to have a large family to fall back on for help.
More info on life insurance
I wrote a mini-series on life insurance that you may find helpful:
Medical insurance ($123/month; $1,476/year)
We’re fortunate in Canada that most of our healthcare is paid for by the government. However, some expenses are not covered: prescriptions, dental, vision care, psychology, massage, physio, chiropractic, etc.
For these expenses, we can purchase extended health insurance or pay for them out-of-pocket. M’s company has an amazing group extended health plan that we’re fortunate to be able to pay into.
His company pays for half of the premiums and we pay the other half through automatic paycheque deductions—this is the amount that you see for this category.
Tip: Don’t forget that you can claim your portion of the premiums as a medical expense when you file your income tax.
Out-of-pocket medical expenses ($128/month; $1,536/year)
Despite having medical insurance, we still have some out-of-pocket expenses. This happens when an item isn’t covered or we exceed the limits of our plan. We try to minimize out-of-pocket expenses by making the best use of our insurance.
Here’s how we do that:
- Get to know your policy and coverage. (You may be surprised by what’s covered.)
- Read the fine print for each type of coverage. (For example, your plan may only cover your orthodontics if you pay monthly—but not if you pay in one lump sum.)
- Plan to use up your annual limits before the end of each calendar year. (For example, if you need it anyway, squeeze in extra massages in November and December so that you don’t use up next year’s coverage early on in the year.)
- If you have a large expense (for example, psych-ed testing for your child) see if you can schedule it to happen across two calendar years (e.g. December to January instead of November to December). This could help to fully cover the expense since your coverage resets in January.
- Take the time to file your claims. (I’m always surprised when I come across people who can’t be bothered to file their claims—that’s potentially thousands of dollars you’re throwing away!)
- Keep your records organized.
- Reconcile your expenses and claims to ensure you’ve been reimbursed correctly.
- Claim out-of-pocket expenses on your income tax.
Why our out-of-pocket medical expenses are so high
A friend commented that our medical expenses seem quite high. He’s right—they are! The amount I’ve included in this category was an average of the last five years, which included some big expenses:
Orthodontics for both kids, which M’s plan only covers 50% of the cost for (to a lifetime max of $2,000 per kid).
Kid 2 had surgery under general anesthesia to remove an extra tooth that was in the middle of his palate. Insurance covered a very small portion of the procedure.
For me, a root canal gone bad resulted in an extraction, bone graft, implant, and crown—most of which wasn’t covered by insurance.
In addition, M needs a special medication that’s injected into his eye every month. (Yep, you read that right—a monthly needle in the eye! ) This drug isn’t covered by his plan, so we have to pay out-of-pocket for it.
Due to side effects from the injections, M’s lens went cloudy, so he needed cataract surgery to replace it. This was only partially covered by insurance.
Clothing and footwear ($121/month; $1,452/year)
I think my family spends a reasonable amount on clothing and footwear. M and I try to buy medium to high-quality items that last for years, so we don’t need to shop that often. However, I have to shop more often for the boys since they won’t stop growing and wearing things out!
Here’s how we save on our clothing and footwear expenses:
- Shop at thrift stores and on Craigslist.
- Only buy items on sale.
- Browse the clearance and sale racks first.
- Buy quality, classic pieces that last.
- Don’t buy into hyped-up, overpriced brands.
- Don’t pay attention to brand names (unless a brand is known for its quality).
- Graciously accept hand-me-downs (and actually wear them).
- Only wash our clothes when they’re actually dirty.
- Hang-dry our clothes instead of using the dryer.
- Change into old, comfy clothes at home (to save wear and tear on our nicer clothes).
- Mend, patch, repair, and resole clothing and footwear instead of replacing.
Part 3: Adding it all up
Alright, now that we’ve detailed all of my family’s essential expenses, it’s time to add everything up in some nice, organized tables!
Important notes about the numbers
- Only essential expenses are included.
- Discretionary expenses (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
- Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar.
- Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
- In this interview, the home currency is Canadian dollars.
- For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter in each section. I hope you find it useful!
How much does it cost to live the FIRE life in Vancouver?
4. Utilities and bills
|Expense||Monthly (CAD)||Annual (CAD)|
|Water||Included in property tax||Included in property tax|
|Garbage||Included in property tax||Included in property tax|
Part 4: Other expenses
This is a special section that’s just for fun! It’s the place for my interviewees to mention any expenses that they’ve done a really good job of optimizing and/or just want to share.
These expenses won’t be included in the totals (just to keep things as standardized as possible). I hope you find this section interesting and informative!
Here are a couple that I’d like to share:
This is a category that has special significance to me because it always used to feel completely out of my control. (We have a large family—there were a lot of gifts to buy!) Shockingly, the $600/year that I’m sharing here is half the amount that we used to spend at Christmas.
If you’d like to learn more, I discuss the many ways we’ve been able to save money (and the environment) during the holidays in my Green Christmas post.
(Bob Wen, this is for you!) Our dog Mika is, as Kid 2 says, “the baby of the family”. As such, she is spoiled rotten! We adopted her from M’s cousin, who has always fed her a raw diet. This costs a lot more than kibble (even high-end kibble) but the extra cost is absolutely worth it.
Unsurprisingly, food makes up the majority of our expenses for Mika. Another large expense for most pets is pet-sitting, but we’re very fortunate to have M’s uncle and aunt (and other family) to help look after Mika (when we can eventually travel again).
Vancouver may be the most expensive city in Canada, but it’s very much possible to live frugally, while still living a good life, and pursuing FIRE. It does require effort, research and resourcefulness, but it’s nothing that a motivated FIRE seeker can’t handle!
I hope my interview was helpful and inspiring and that you’ll want to participate in this series! (See the details below if you’re game.) I’d love for it to become a diverse, international resource for the entire FIRE community to use and enjoy.
Referral links in this post
In case you’re looking for one of the referral links I mentioned in this post, I’ve collected them here for your convenience:
- Square One Home Insurance: $25 bonus when you sign up through my link.
- Flashfood: $5 bonus when you use my referral link to download and install the app.
- Lightspeed Internet: $10 bonus when you enter my customer number (18059) as the referrer.
- Fongo Home Phone VoIP service: Enter my email, chrissy (at) eatsleepbreathefi.com to support the blog by giving me one month of free service. Thank you!
- Public Mobile: $10 bonus when you use my referral code (ZZLLV8).
Share your thoughts
Were you surprised by any of my expenses? Did anything stand out as very high or very low? Do you have more money-saving tips? Share them below, along with any thoughts and suggestions you have for the series!
AL lives with his wife in a suburb near Vancouver, where real estate prices are more affordable and property tax is cheaper… but does that translate into lower overall spending?
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