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How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in Vancouver? (As a Family of Four)

How much does it cost to live the FIRE life in Vancouver?

Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels

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)

Disclosure: These interviews may include affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a commission if you make a purchase through my links—at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

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

chrissy with the boys vancouver
Me and the kids enjoying the view of Vancouver from North Van

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?)

If you’d like to learn even more about me, visit my About Me page or read my backstory.

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.

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

1. How much does housing cost in Vancouver?

house binyamin mellish
Photo by Bonyamin Mellish on Pexels

Mortgage ($0) 🇨🇦

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.

Related: Learn more about the Smith Manoeuvre on my podcast or by reading the book.

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.

BONUS: I’ve negotiated a special offer for my readers—you’ll receive a $25 credit by purchasing a policy through my link! (I’ll also receive a referral fee for your purchase—thanks for your support!)

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?

transportation paris 16 flickr

Paris Shared Bike, Bus and Taxi Lane” by EURIST e.V. is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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?

grocery store gemma unsplash
Photo by gemma on Unsplash

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.

More money-saving tips

In How to Save Money on Groceries (36 Valuable Tips) I share all my best tips to help you save big on groceries. In the post, I include unique ideas you’ve probably never thought of as well as new spins on classic tips. I hope you find the post helpful!

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?

utilities jason richard unsplash
Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

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:

bc hydro compare my home
Our home (in light blue) compared to similar homes nearby (in dark blue)

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 ( 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:

General tips

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 X946WK.)
  • 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 (X946WK) 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?

clothing polina tankilevitch
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

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.

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!

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

How much does it cost to live the FIRE life in Vancouver?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Property tax$521$6,251
Strata/HOA fees
Home insurance$75$900

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Vehicle insurance$160$1,920
Vehicle maintenance$33$396
Bike maintenance$0$0
Parking and tolls$3$36

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Eating out$204$2,448

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Natural gas$92$1,104
WaterIncluded in property taxIncluded in property tax
GarbageIncluded in property taxIncluded in property tax
Home phone$6$72
Cell phones$12$144
Streaming entertainment$7$88

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Life and disability insurance$38$456
Medical insurance$123$1,476
Out-of-pocket medical expenses$128$1,536
Clothing and footwear$121$1,452

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Utilities and bills$216$2,596
Other essentials$410$4,920

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:

Christmas ($600/year)

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.

Pet ($1,656/year)

(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.

Related: Why We Adopted a Dog (Even Though It’s a Terrible FI Choice)

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).

Closing thoughts

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:

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?

Learn more about the what and why behind the series and access the complete list of interviews.

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

You can also support this blog by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links. Note that not every link is an affiliate link—some are just favourite products and services that I want to share. 🙂

As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    January 27, 2021 at 8:45 am

    This is amazing Chrissy! Love this idea and how you’ve set it up. As always, so clearly organized and laid out. Clearly you retain your title of “Optimizer Extraordinaire” in my books. Considering your location, ~$30k for a family of 4 is AMAZING! You know we’re game to share our spending with your pocket of the FIRE space 🙂

    • Reply
      January 27, 2021 at 4:26 pm

      Hi Court—ha ha, I will happily retain the title you’ve bestowed on me.

      I couldn’t be happier to hear that you’d like to be interviewed! I’ll be in touch soon, my friend. 😄 Your low spending gives Mr. Money Mustache a run for his money and I’d love to share it with my readers. You can teach us all a thing or two about living well on less!

      Thanks again for the support as I was working through this idea. Your feedback was invaluable!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2021 at 11:19 am


    Great job at managing basic living expenses in < $30k in Vancouver.

    What surprised me is the housing maintenance cost. I know that you are pretty good at DIY maintenance, but I thought over the years, maintenance costs would be much higher considering major repairs/replacements.

    Our basic living expenses are slightly different by categories, but overall it is very similar to your total annual expense. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2021 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Shashi—thanks for yet another comment!

      Regarding the home maintenance, the number I included is the average of the last five years. Our house is still relatively new (it was built in 2003) so that may be why the maintenance costs seem low. It was also built by a quality, reputable builder, so that helps as well. However, it’s getting close to 20 years old now, so I’m certain that much bigger expenses are on the way!

      It’s great to know that another Vancouver family is very similar to us! Regarding the categories: the funny thing is, this isn’t how I arrange mine either! It took quite a bit of research and time to finally settle on this as the most consistent and standardized format. Hopefully it’s still helpful!

      • Shashi
        January 27, 2021 at 11:20 pm

        That’s great Chrissy. Yes, the data is helpful. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Reply
    January 28, 2021 at 7:51 am

    Hi Chrissy

    Thanks for sharing your data. I lived in Vancouver for 20 years, but left because of the real estate costs. Having your home paid puts you in a different place than most Vancouverites, so congratulations for having this cost out of the way. I now live in Victoria which has a similar cost profile to Vancouver with the exception of real estate. My current house would have cost me at least 2-3 times more if I had stayed in Van.

    After looking at your monthly totals, I was amazed by your food cost. I also have 2 kids roughly the same age as your, but our monthly food bill is 3x – roughly $1600 per month. My wife shops at Superstore as well, we eat less meat, and I fast intermittently. We also have a large vegetable garden, so our veggie costs are reduced through the fall and winter months. I don’t understand how you do it. Pretty amazing!

    Again, thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2021 at 8:34 pm

      Hi Mich—we were very fortunate to have bought our first house, and then moved to this second house, when we did. We bought our first house in 2000, and it was a buyer’s market at the time. From the moment we bought, things took off and haven’t stopped since! However, when we moved to our second house in 2010, we were lucky that the market wasn’t too crazy. We sold our first house and bought the second at reasonable prices. That lucky timing helped us a lot.

      As for the food costs, it sounds to me like you’re doing well. And gardening too? I’m so impressed. The only thing I can think of is that maybe my family and I have lower-than-average appetites? As an example, when we eat out, we always share three entrees, and usually still have leftovers. Another example: a large pizza will feed us for 1.5 meals. So that could be it?

      Whatever the case, you’ve optimized your groceries well. You can’t really ask your family to eat less, so I think you’re doing just fine!

      **I gave it some more thought, and there are a few other things we do that could make a big difference (I’ll add these to my post):

      1) I cook as much as possible from scratch, so we almost never buy jarred sauces, prepared meals, or meal kits.

      2) Individually-wrapped snacks can be a huge expense, so I buy the big packs and portion them out myself in containers. (It’s more eco-friendly that way too!)

      3) We drink hardly any juice and pop. Instead, we drink water (or tea) 95% of the time. (Except for my husband, who drinks a tad less water but a little more alcohol!)

      • Mich
        January 29, 2021 at 8:30 am

        Hi Chrissy – Thanks for your response!

        In 2000 I went the other way and put all my money into stocks. I had some regret about it 10 years ago when I compared to Vancouver real estate at the time, but in the last 10 years my portfolio has outpaced real estate quite a bit. So no more regrets.

        We probably eat more than the average household, but I’m still missing something here in cost-savings. We do make most of our meals from scratch with the exception of some prepared sauces, but that’s about it. No individually-wrapped snacks, no juice or pop. I drink beer, but I track alcohol separately from food. So if this is included in your food budget, then that adds more to the budget discrepancy. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to continue reading to discover your secrets. 🙂

        I’m not sure what core FIRE means, but I don’t see how all family budgets can be similar when the number of family members is different. Maybe someone can explain that. If we are assuming a family of 4, then that makes more sense. I can see how a family that is united in their FIRE plan will be able to hit a core FIRE ideal, but in my household I’m the only one that follows this movement. I’m probably heading down the fat FIRE road, because my numbers don’t seem very lean.

      • Chrissy
        January 29, 2021 at 6:08 pm

        Hi Mich—ha ha no secrets here (except for our net worth and full spending numbers). I just thought of one last thing, then that’s it for my grocery tips! I buy most meat and veggies when they go on sale for $1.99/lb or less. Beef is never this cheap, but we try not to eat much of it anyway. I track the lowest prices I see for the things we buy most by recording them in my “Our Groceries” app. 95% of the time, I’m able to wait until I see the lowest price again before I need to restock.

        I think what Chris and I were referring to as Core FIRE is these essential expenses which I’ve included in this interview series. These are generally the same basics all of us have to pay for, and most of the time, paying less for them doesn’t degrade our quality of life… it’s mostly the same level of service/enjoyment, but for less!

        I feel for you. It took my husband a while to get on board with FIRE. I’m lucky that he’s also quite frugal and very good with his money. So that’s not a huge issue. But I did mention he has his ‘toy’ car, which did set us back in our FIRE journey to buy!

        Also, I’m not sure if it’s very clear in my post, but if you read the previous post that intros this series, I mention that I don’t include discretionary spending in this interview series. This was intentional, to level the playing field and standardize things. Once I add in my family’s discretionary spending, my family is NOT lean FIRE by any means! I hope that helps.

        PS We don’t include alcohol in our groceries. My husband enjoys, amongst other things, good scotch and it’s not cheap!

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    January 28, 2021 at 8:51 am

    I haven’t read a single thing on the Smith Maneuver so have no idea how you are showing no mortgage payment. Oh well, we can just assume a number of $1500/month to ballpark for someone who wants to compare themselves and living in YVR. My budgeting is a bit different with where I put a few things but the one thing we are the same is we budget the exact same amount for food & dining 🙂
    Looking at how this budgeting series is laid out, everyone should have close to the same Core FIRE budget if they truly stick to a MMM lifestyle and then the discretionary is where the coast, lean or fat fire comes in to play.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2021 at 9:06 pm

      Hi Chris—I do make payments to the mortgage that we use for the Smith Manoeuvre. However, these payments are 100% for investing. Because our house was fully paid off, none of our payments are being used to pay down the equity of house. 100% of the loan is being used to invest in stocks.

      If I were doing a traditional SM, where I still had a balance on the mortgage and used only the HELOC to invest, then I would include the mortgage payments since they’re part of our essential living expenses. However, I wouldn’t include the HELOC interest payments since those are 100% for investments. Does that makes sense?

      I’m thrilled to know that our food spending is the same as yours!!! I know how mindful you are with your diet, so I thought for sure you’d have us beat there!

      I really like your thinking that the Core FIRE budget will be pretty similar and that discretionary spending is where the other variations of FIRE come into play. That’s an excellent observation. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply
    January 28, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    That is amazing, Chrissy – under $30k for a family of 4 in Vancouver. I’m embarrassed to share how much I spent, haha, as a single person 🙂 Since I spent less in 2020, I was going to use it as my baseline going forward. Looking forward to your series!

    • Reply
      January 29, 2021 at 12:44 am

      Hi Latestarterfire—keep in mind that I’m only sharing ESSENTIAL expenses here. Our discretionary expenses (especially travel) change the numbers quite a bit!

      I didn’t use our 2020 spending here since we also spent less, but we’ll also try to use it as our baseline going forward. Thanks for commenting!

  • Reply
    January 30, 2021 at 10:32 am

    Amazing Chrissy! I’m looking forward to the next instalments in the series. I LOVE Public Mobile. I finally convinced my dad to switch in December (he was paying $35/month for talk and text on a flip phone through Telus 🤯). And my bill is now down to $11. Especially with Covid, it doesn’t seem necessary to have more than the smallest amount of data- it’s not like I ever leave the house these days haha.

    • Reply
      January 30, 2021 at 10:08 pm

      Hi Maggie—oh my, $35 to talk and text on a flip phone is outrageous! Glad that you and your dad are with Public now. I have very quickly become a super fan. Did you get their holiday promo with the free data and minutes? So amazing!

      Yep, I totally agree about data. It’s helpful to have a little bit for maps and replying to messages on the go, but the 250mb/month included with my plan is plenty for that!

      Thanks for commenting. I’m also excited to publish the other interviews. There are several in the works right now! 🙂

  • Reply
    Money Mechanic
    January 30, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Excellent write up Chrissy!! So much detail as always. People are going to love seeing all the numbers broken down so they can compare and contrast. BTW, you are not doing the SM! You are leveraged investing. You know how that distinction bugs me!! LOL

    • Reply
      January 30, 2021 at 10:11 pm

      Hey MM—thanks for the kind words, friend.

      And you totally called me out. You’re right. I never used to call what I did the SM, but I’ve been lazy and just call it that so I don’t have to explain it.

      To be fair, the mechanics of what I’m doing are identical to the SM. It’s just that I’m not paying down my mortgage as I do it. That is a difference, though (you’re right). I will amend my post to reflect this.

      Apologies for bugging you yet again, ha ha! I’ll do my best to remember not to call it the SM anymore. 😉

  • Reply
    My Own Advisor
    January 30, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    Hey Chrissy!

    Wow, great work! I submitted a comment but maybe it didn’t take or when to spam? Oh well. I will try again but I can’t remember what I asked many hours ago… ha.

    OK, I will try.

    First of all, kudos and great work!! Wow.

    1. I’m not sure you are doing any sort of SM. Sounds like just leveraged investing?
    2. How on earth did you get into your 40s, and have no mortgage, in Vancouver? 🙂
    3. I’m constantly amazed how low your property taxes are in Vancouver. Ours in Ottawa, in a 2-bed condo no less, are $500 per month or $6,000 per year. And we have a small place!! It’s not unheard of to see some places near the canal in Ottawa that have property taxes that are > $1,000 per month.
    4. Do you not include saving/saving for investments as part of your budget? Why or why not?
    5. Finally, what about travel? We try and save $1,000 per month for travel (can’t go anywhere this year….sigh) so we’ll just have a bigger entertainment/travel fund in 2022. I don’t see any major “fun” expenses here?

    All that said, you and family are doing AMAZING 🙂

    All the best,

    • Reply
      January 30, 2021 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Mark—LOL, your previous comment actually did come through, but I needed to approve it so you didn’t see it right away. It was almost identical to this one, so I’ll delete the other, ha ha.

      I’ll reply to each of your points:

      1. Yes, as I replied to MM, you are correct. It is leveraged investing, not the SM. However, the mechanics of how I do it are similar to the SM (I pay the mortgage, then the principal readvances into my HELOC). That’s why I’m lazy and just call it the SM. But yes, you and MM are correct. There is a difference and I will amend my post!

      2. This was a result of lucky timing, hard work, and diligent saving. When we bought our first house in 2000, Vancouver real estate had been stagnant for a while, so prices were quite affordable. When we moved to our second house in 2010, we were again relatively lucky that the market wasn’t nuts at the time. Combine that with us living like students until kids came along, then us hosting homestay students full-time for many years, and my dumb luck with my husband’s stock options, and we were able to pay off the house just as I found FIRE.

      3. This will be another amendment I need to make to the post. (This is why I interviewed myself first—to catch issues like this!) I broke out the water and waste fees from our property tax and moved them to the utilities section. This makes our property taxes look artificially low, but it seems to be causing confusion, so I will edit the post to make it clearer. (FYI: when I add the water and waste fees to our property tax, it works out to $6,251. 😱)

      4. I discussed this in the intro post for this series. Basically, it’s because this series is about expenses, and I don’t count savings as expenses!

      5. Travel is actually a HUGE line item on our budget! However, this series is only about essential/core expenses. (I also discussed this at length in my intro post.) I tried to make this very apparent in my interview (I mentioned it three times in a coloured box, but it seems you and others didn’t catch it 😕)! I will have to see how I can make it even more clear!

      I excluded things like alcohol, gifts, entertainment, etc.—the fun, but discretionary stuff. I did this to make the interview series somewhat standardized (and as a result, easier to compare and thus more useful). So… our total spending is more than this! (I don’t reveal this amount, but it’s NOT lean FIRE!)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment in such detail. You made me aware of some things I wasn’t clear enough in this interview. I will edit my post accordingly. 🙂

      • Family Money Saver
        February 1, 2021 at 5:58 am

        I found this interesting when I first read it as well (water/waste fees) – so is this for drinking water and garbage collection as city provided services? We have our water bill included in our hydro bill as a separate item. I was surprised how low your property tax was as well, but when you add that waste/water to it, they are almost identical to ours.

      • Chrissy
        February 1, 2021 at 8:31 pm

        Hi FMS—the water fee is for all the water that comes to our house, whether it’s for drinking or washing the car. We don’t have a meter (only new houses are required to) so it’s a flat rate. I think we’d be better off being metered, to be honest! We’d probably pay a fraction of that if it was based on usage.

        Our waste collection is actually three fees (I just called it “waste” for simplicity): sewer, garbage and recycling. All of that is city-provided. It’s interesting how everyone’s utilities are broken up so differently! Hopefully my categories hold up to all the unique systems.

        Thanks for sharing info about your municipality’s system. This is all so interesting to me! (I know, I’m a bit weird. 😜)

  • Reply
    January 31, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Very impressive numbers! Not sure how you manage to spend only $550 per month on groceries. That’s very awesome considering you have two teenaged boys.

    • Reply
      January 31, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      Haha we are all in awe!

      • Chrissy
        January 31, 2021 at 8:06 pm

        😆 You’re kind to say that, but I honestly think you can do it too! Seriously, we don’t do anything crazy or hardcore!

    • Reply
      January 31, 2021 at 7:59 pm

      Hi Bob—thanks for the comment. It’s so funny, we don’t do anything all that out of the ordinary with our groceries! And, based on what people in ChooseFI Canada share, we’re pretty average for a family of four. It’s interesting how there’s such a range in grocery spending.

  • Reply
    January 31, 2021 at 3:46 pm

    Amazing! $1.99/lb meat, the only meat I can think of is pork bones or chicken thighs or drumsticks. Basa fish is $1.99/lb too when it’s on sale. Even ground pork is like $2-3/lb on sale. Would love to see a post on your grocery tips and meal planning!

    We have salmon filets a few times a month but it’s $8.99/lb and my toddlers just throw it on the ground LOL.

    • Reply
      January 31, 2021 at 8:03 pm

      Hey GYM—as I replied to you on Twitter, you’re right. It’s mostly chicken and pork for $1.99/lb or less. (We also get the $0.99/lb pork legs from Thrifty’s or Save-On and my husband cuts it up into small pieces for many, many meals.) Yes, basa is a great staple fish to have on hand and if you watch for it, it does drop to $1.99/lb as well.

      $8.99/lb for salmon fillets is a very good price. We often buy it for $9.99/lb and turn it into sashimi and poke. Yum! 😋 Ha ha, toddlers are the WORST for wasting food!

      I think you’re right—I need to go into more detail with this topic!

  • Reply
    Family Money Saver
    February 1, 2021 at 6:09 am

    I’m still deep-diving into some of these categories, but not sure how you guys do it! A single large pizza in our house wouldn’t last too long 🙂 Our food budget is a focus this year. All of your utility bills seems to be very low and efficient as well! I think our pre-covid essentials budget was close to triple your total, so I’d say you’re doing well. 🙂

    • Reply
      February 1, 2021 at 8:47 pm

      Hi FMS—it seems my pizza estimation isn’t quite right, ha ha. I talked to my family about it just now and they said I’m totally off—I’ve inversed the numbers. It’s 1.5 large pizzas for one meal (not one pizza for 1.5 meals). I think I was thinking of one of those extra-large pizzas we sometimes get. (This is how infrequently we buy pizza. 😬)

      I’m also realizing that maybe one of the big contributors to our lower-than-average essentials budget is the fact that I’m a stay-at-home mom. As I found in my guest post for Bob at Tawcan, there are many efficiencies to be gained when one parent can spend more time on things around the house.

      Households with two working parents have bigger fish to fry—instead of worrying about turning lights off around the house, you have real work to do! You’re probably earning a lot more than us overall, so you can also afford to spend more so that life isn’t totally nuts.

  • Reply
    Gean @ F.I.R.E. We Go!
    February 6, 2021 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks for the detailed post, Chrissy. We will use some of the tips provided to cut our expenses 🙂 To give you an example, our Life Insurance itself costs us 2,300 per year (both of us). I’m not even including disability and critical illness. So many things to learn – thank you very much.

    I am also interested in the property tax + credit card. We were using Plastiq, however, the fee is now 3.5% and prohibitive 🙂

    Thanks again and stay safe!

    • Reply
      February 8, 2021 at 9:28 pm

      Hi Gean—thanks for reading and commenting! Optimizing essential expenses is one of the easiest ways to quickly cut down on spending. And the nice thing is the reductions usually stick for the long term, which makes the effort so worthwhile.

      I hope you get a better life insurance rate by shopping around! I will email you the doc for my property tax credit card ‘secret’ soon. 🙂

      • Gean @ F.I.R.E. We Go!
        February 9, 2021 at 6:39 am

        Thank you, Chrissy 🙂 I’ve received and will certainly reach out with questions! Stay safe

  • Reply
    March 23, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I am quite impressed! I also live in Vancouver.
    Wow, how come you managed it under $30k. I should learn a lot from you 🙂

    • Reply
      March 24, 2021 at 4:46 pm

      Hello MoneyAsian—nice to ‘meet’ you! It’s awesome to know I have another Vancouver blogger to follow!

      Under $30K for essentials definitely isn’t the norm compared to most families in Vancouver. However, compared to FIRE families, we’re pretty average or even a little above average. Regularly revisiting expenses and looking for optimizations is fun for me, so that really helps. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 16, 2021 at 9:53 am

    I have been floundering around trying to figure out how to access the cheapest deals on this stuff for probably a year now and not really getting very far. Thanks for collecting it in such an easily actionable way. When you say VOIP doesn’t work like a landline were you thinking of anything specifically? My top concern is quality of the sound and my second is safety.

    • Reply
      April 16, 2021 at 4:40 pm

      Hi Caro—I’m thrilled to hear that my post was helpful to you! As you can tell, I’m a hyper-optimizer. I truly enjoy sharing what I learn/figure out with others!

      VoIP is different from a landline because it’s dependent on two things which a true landline is not: electricity and an internet connection. That means, if your power or internet goes out, your VoIP line won’t work.

      In addition, because a VoIP line goes through ahtird-party service, it doesn’t automatically display your current address to emergency call centres. VoIP services try to help with this issue by keeping your address on file and attempting to provide emergency operators with it. In addition, if you move and forget to update your address with your VoIP provider, emergency services may end up going to your old address. That’s why, if you use a VoIP line, you must always remember to verify your location with the emergency operator when calling for help.

      I know those issues sound a bit scary, but they’ve not been issues for us in the 5 years since we switched to a VoIP line. We’ve been able to get around the power/internet outages with cell phones. And with the emergency response, we’ve trained our kids and anyone who might be alone in our house, to always verify the address if they need to call 911. Hopefully, none of us will ever need to deal with that scenario anyway!

      As for the sound quality, as long as you set up the device correctly and have decent internet, there should be no difference compared to a regular landline. We used to have some issues with static when we had an older version of Fongo’s device, but they sent us a newer, updated device and we haven’t had issues since.

      Sorry for the info overload, but I hope it helps!

  • Reply
    May 8, 2022 at 7:11 pm

    Wow, your expenses are so low! Especially the food. What about kids activities like sports or other classes?

    • Reply
      May 8, 2022 at 9:40 pm

      Hi Sarah—thanks for your comment! Keep in mind that these are only our essential expenses. Once we add in our discretionary spending, our number isn’t quite as low!

      I discuss ways we save on kids’ activities in this post: How to Reach FI on One Income, With Kids, in a High Cost of Living Area. (See tips #13 and 14.)

      Basically, we use community centre and library classes as much as possible and teach our kids ourselves/at home as much as we could. Kids’ activities can very quickly add up, so finding ways to save in this area can make a HUGE difference!

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