FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in North Vancouver? (As a Couple)

fire life north vancouver wikimedia

North Vancouver View from Waterfront, Vancouver Downtown” by Hisakazu Watanabe is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in North Vancouver?

Hello, and welcome to interview #18 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 #18: Nadia in North Vancouver, BC

In today’s interview, we’ll meet Nadia, who lives with her husband in the beautiful Vancouver suburb of North Vancouver, BC. Like my previous interviewees Ana and Carrie, Nadia is not a blogger or podcaster.

She’s just a ‘regular’ person on her way to FIRE. I’ve received feedback that readers really enjoy interviews with guests like Nadia, Ana, and Carrie, and I can see why—it’s more relatable and approachable. While FI bloggers are also regular people, it’s nice to hear from others who are just quietly doing their thing.

About North Vancouver

Since Nadia doesn’t have a blog, I’ll use this section to introduce her city to you. I know it well, as it’s just over the water from Vancouver (you can actually see it from downtown).

North Vancouver is known as Vancouver’s playground. It’s home to two of Vancouver’s three local ski hills (one of which my kids learned to ski on) and also boasts numerous trails and two (yes, two) suspension bridges. My family and I have spent many hours exploring North Van’s natural wonders.

You’re likely picturing a tree-filled, hilly place full of streams and trails… and that’s exactly what much of North Vancouver is! Due to all this natural beauty, it’s one of Vancouver’s most desirable (and therefore expensive) suburbs to live in.

This is another reason why I’m so thrilled to share Nadia’s interview with you. Despite living in this very costly city, she and her husband spend shockingly little on their essentials. And yet, they live an amazing, very full life… as you’re about to see.

I hope you enjoy Nadia’s interview. It left me inspired to further optimize our expenses—and motivated to spend more time on those North Van trails!

Part 1: Getting to know you

fire life north vancouver nadia
Nadia enjoying the beauty of the North Vancouver mountains

Tell us about you and your partner

I currently live in North Vancouver with my husband, and we’re both in our mid-thirties. I’ve been working in the world of banking for the past 12 years, and my husband runs a software company. We’ve known each other for as long as I can remember, but officially it will be 15 years this winter! We love to travel, spend all our free time outdoors, and hang out with our friends and family. 

I haven’t started my own blog yet, although that’s something that’s been on my mind since we started to learn more about FIRE. 

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

We’ve always been frugal and conscious of our spending, but we hadn’t truly discovered FIRE until about 5 years ago. We never really realized just how much earlier we could have been financially free if we didn’t try to keep up with the Joneses and let our expenses creep up with each promotion. 

We’re currently about four years away from our FI date. We’re both planning to keep working past FI, but the work may look very different. We’re considering reducing work hours or changing our fields of work completely to start chasing the type of work that makes us happy, as opposed to the ones with the highest pay cheque.

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 definitely aiming for regular FIRE. We don’t need a luxurious retirement; however, there are certain expenses we’re not willing to give up once we reach our number. We absolutely love to travel, ski, hike, bike, etc. In order for us to be happy once we get to our goal, these hobbies must stay. Based on current expenses, our dream retirement will cost us approximately $25,000 each per year.

Tell us about your living situation

We live in a 2-bedroom condo that we purchased back in 2012. We love our neighbourhood. It’s extremely walkable/bikeable, close to transit, surrounded by restaurants, parks and walking/biking distance to our work and all of our family and friends. My husband works from home and I bike or walk to work daily.

Why did you choose to live in North Vancouver?

Our parents technically chose for us. When our families immigrated to Canada, they chose North Vancouver as their base since it was safe, surrounded by nature, but still very close to downtown Vancouver. Since we love the outdoors and appreciate the proximity to our friends and family (who still live in North Vancouver) it hasn’t crossed our minds to leave.

Part 2: The expenses

In this section, Nadia shares her essential expenses and best money-saving tips. But before we get started, let’s review some important notes:

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 North Vancouver?

townhouses curtis adams
Photo by Curtis Adams on Pexels

Mortgage ($0) 🇨🇦

July 24, 2021 was officially the date when we said goodbye to our mortgage. We always looked at mortgage payoff as our stepping stone to FIRE since having this expense eliminated would allow us to inflate how much we invest. That would, in turn, get us to FIRE that much faster. 

Although we’re fully aware that mortgage freedom came with the opportunity cost of having this money invested at a much higher return than paying off low-interest debt, the piece of mind that came with living in a house that’s entirely yours is priceless. 

Now that the mortgage cost is eliminated, we took the amount we used to pay towards the mortgage and added it to our investments. We focus mainly on low-cost index funds like VTI under a TFSA and RRSP roof. That will speed up our journey to FI while maintaining our spending at a pre-mortgage-free level. 

We do, however, looove traveling. (Although COVID got in the way of this lately.) Also, now that the mortgage is paid off, we will travel slightly more than we used to. More on this in “Other expenses” below…

Property tax ($131/month; $1,572/year) 🇨🇦

Due to the low square footage of our condo, our property taxes are very affordable.

Strata/HOA fees ($370/month; $4,440/year) 🇨🇦

Our strata fee is fairly low since our building doesn’t have any amenities. Hot water/heating is also included in the price (radiant in-floor heating). Our unit is also quite small for two bedrooms. As a side effect, the strata fee, electricity, and property taxes are also much lower since they are based on square footage. 

We don’t mind the size since the developer did an excellent job with the unit layout (not a lot of wasted space going towards hallways, islands and weird shapes). Also, being minimalists, we really don’t need much space for what we own.

Home insurance ($50/month; $600/year) 🇨🇦

Since we signed up for our optional auto insurance, home insurance and roadside assistance with the same company, BCAA, they were able to provide us with a discount.

Home maintenance ($40/month; $480/year) 🇨🇦

This category includes: home maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and improvements; household goods and supplies; furniture; and appliances.

My husband does most of the repairs and maintenance, DIY style. We’re quite minimalist, and with less stuff comes a lower cost of maintenance. Shopping for household goods like a new bathroom curtain means that the one we currently have will have to go. That way, we can continue living in a 700 square foot apartment without the need to upgrade. 

For our laundry and cleaning supplies, I recently switched to Tru Earth, and it was life-changing. I still can’t believe that little strips of what looks like paper can do such an amazing job getting my laundry clean without taking all this space on the shelf, reducing so much plastic, and containing only good stuff!

Home equity opportunity cost ($37,500/year) 🇨🇦

Our home is currently valued at $750,000, and since there’s no mortgage on it, the opportunity cost would be $37,500.

$750,000 x 5% = $37,500 in opportunity cost after one year of investing.

About the home equity opportunity cost ‘expense’

This is an optional expense category, suggested by The Economist from FI Garage. The intention for sharing this is to calculate the opportunity cost of home ownership versus renting.

That is: if you invested the amount that’s tied up in your home equity, how much would that be worth after one year of investing (calculated using a conservative return of 5%)?

Some of my interviewees aren’t comfortable sharing this, which is why this expense is optional. In addition, there are other factors (appreciation, rent savings, other home ownership costs) which could make this number less useful.

Still, I think it’s an interesting number to consider, so I’ve decided to include it. 😉

2. How much does transportation cost in North Vancouver?

transportation paris 16 flickr
Paris Shared Bike, Bus and Taxi Lane” by EURIST e.V. is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Vehicle loan payments ($0) 🇨🇦

We currently don’t have any loan or lease for our car since we already paid it off. Back in 2015, we bought our Subaru and it was one of those decisions that kept me up at night. 

My parents always used to tell me to buy with cash only and buy a car that’s at least three years old since value depreciation is the steepest during this time. You can only imagine the lectures I got right after I bought my 2015 Subaru in 2015 and bought it on credit. (The car was about 10 months old but it hasn’t depreciated as much.) 

Two years into our car loan, we decided to roll it into our mortgage so at least we won’t have to look at it, and our mortgage is now paid off! We love our car—it’s great on gas and supports all our adventures. But knowing that it is a declining asset, I would always recommend a car that’s at least three years old.

Vehicle insurance ($150/month; $1,800/year) 🇨🇦

Since my husband works from home and I’m within walking distance from my job, we share one car and only use it on average once or twice a week. We prefer biking to driving any day, and it helps us stay in shape! 

Most of our friends and family live within a 15-minute bike ride, and therefore having a car for us is more of a want than a need.

Gas ($35/month; $420/year) 🇨🇦

Since we don’t use our car often, we only fill up our car every month or two.

Vehicle maintenance ($60/month; $720/year) 🇨🇦

My husband does most of the maintenance on the car, but this amount also includes one-off items like new tires or changing the battery.

Bike maintenance ($0) 🇨🇦

My work has done an incredible job encouraging staff to bike to work as much as we can, and they cover our bike tune-ups and other expenses.

Parking and tolls ($0) 🇨🇦

Places where we do drive usually don’t require parking. Therefore, the cost is so minimal that it’s almost nonexistent.

Transit ($0) 🇨🇦

We barely ever take transit, although it’s easily accessible to us. With everything being so close and having our car available when we need it, transit is one of those expenses that is too low to even budget for.

3. How much does food cost in North Vancouver?

grocery store gemma unsplash
Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Groceries ($400/month; $4,800/year) 🇨🇦

Both my husband and I mostly eat plant-based. As much as it wasn’t a financial decision in any way, as a side effect, we can save much more than we used to a few years ago when meat was on our plates daily. We also live very close to an ethnic market called Persia Foods. We get most of our veggies, fruits and nuts here for a fraction of the cost of regular supermarkets.

Eating out ($400/month; $4,800/year) 🇨🇦

My hubby and I definitely don’t see eye to eye in this category; I think it’s safe to say that he eats out daily, and with the variety of restaurants around us, it’s really hard not to. I, on the other hand, try to push myself to bring lunch to work instead. 

I’m amazed how quickly this cost adds up when you stop paying attention. But mainly, I appreciate the times when we do go out that much more. I spend approximately $50–$100 on eating out; he spends approximately $350 each month and won’t stop, lol.

4. How much do utilities and bills cost in North Vancouver?

utilities jason richard unsplash
Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Natural gas ($0) 🇨🇦

Our building doesn’t use natural gas.

Electricity ($30/month; $360/year) 🇨🇦

Our electricity is provided by BC Hydro, and the price is quite affordable. Here are some ways we keep the electricity low:

  • We use cold water for our washer and only run it with full loads.
  • Switching lights to LED bulbs.
  • Turning off the lights when we’re not using them.

Water, garbage and recycling ($0) 🇨🇦

Water, garbage and recycling are included in our property taxes.

Internet ($74/month; $888/year) 🇨🇦

We currently use Telus as our internet provider. My husband is an excellent negotiator and was able to lower this cost from way over $100 that we used to pay. The tip here is to be aware of what the competition offers and not be afraid to ask for a match if other companies offer better deals.

Home phone ($0) 🇨🇦

We don’t own a home phone.

Cell phones ($105/month; $1,260/year) 🇨🇦

My plan costs $105 per month, but it does include a finance component for my newest phone. Once the phone is paid off (in about a year), it will be approximately $55 per month. I’m fully aware that it’s not cheap, and I did not have to upgrade to a new phone.

However, I gave myself permission to upgrade my cell phone every 3–4 years. It’s definitely a want, not a need, but I absolutely love the quality of my pictures and videos. To me, it’s an investment into my memories + trying to keep up with technology at the same time. 

I did recently remove device protection from my plan since I realized my Vancity Visa includes mobile protection in its insurance plan. That switch alone saved me $15 a month, which I was very excited about!

My husband’s company pays for his cell phone plan, and therefore his cost is $0. 

Streaming entertainment ($12/month; $144/year) 🇨🇦

We do love watching movies and TV shows almost daily, and therefore Netflix is definitely one of our essential expenses. We canceled our cable, so Netflix is our only streaming cost. We also watch free videos online, mostly on YouTube.

5. How much do other essentials cost in North Vancouver?

clothing polina tankilevitch
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Life and disability insurance ($160/month; $1,920/year) 🇨🇦

Approximately 10 years ago, I purchased a $250,000 life insurance policy where I pay for 20 years. After this period ends, I no longer have to pay monthly premiums, but I’ll still be insured for life. My policy will also grow in amount due to cash surrender value built over time. 

Considering that this policy will one day, unfortunately, pay out without any doubt, and I only had to pay for it for 20 years, I thought the value outweighs the cost. This policy costs me $100/month, and it will be paid off in 10 years. 

My work currently pays for my disability insurance. I could have gotten life insurance from work as well; however, considering that I may not work for that employer until 65 due to FIRE, I wanted something completely independent of it. If I waited until my FI date to get the same policy, the price would be completely different. 

I also hold critical illness insurance that costs $30 per month. But this coverage will end in about 11 years with an option to renew at a higher cost. I’ll decide if I renew based on my situation in 13 years and the cost to renew.

My husband currently holds a policy that costs him $30 per month. It includes life, disability and critical illness insurance, but it will end in about 3 years with an option to renew at a higher cost. He’s choosing to invest the difference instead.

The total for all three coverages is $160 per month.

Medical insurance ($0) 🇨🇦

We hold extended benefits through work, and therefore this cost is $0 for both of us. And, of course, we enjoy that free Canadian healthcare system.

Out-of-pocket medical expenses ($0) 🇨🇦

If an item isn’t covered through our extended benefits, we have an option to pay for it through a health spending account which is part of our extended benefit plan. Since we currently don’t have any dependents, I have enough credits to allocate towards my health spending account each year. 

Before I decide how much to allocate, I usually have a consultation with my dentist or other practitioners to have an idea of any big-ticket items like a new crown, etc., to give me a better idea of how much money my health spending account will need that year.

Clothing and footwear ($100/month; $1,200/year) 🇨🇦

I’d like to think that I don’t spend too much on clothing, but then every month I find an item that I convince myself I absolutely need. This is the tricky thing about online shopping; we no longer need to leave the house to have access to pretty much anything with a click of a finger. 

One thing I did this year was to unsubscribe to many of my favourite brands to reduce the temptation. I also try to only shop when I actually need something with an actual item in mind.

Personal care ($40/month; $480/year) 🇨🇦

This category includes: haircuts, toiletries and grooming services and supplies.

One of the things COVID really taught me is that cutting my own hair is really not that difficult! And special thanks to all the brave ladies on YouTube who taught me how to do it. Therefore, this cost is now eliminated! 

When it comes to other products, I try to stick to natural brands like Saje, Native, and Burts Bees. These can be more expensive, but I do believe that they’re definitely worth the price since our skin absorbs everything we put on it. However, I don’t use any make-up other than mascara, and therefore I can save in this category.

Technology ($0) 🇨🇦

This category includes essential technology: software and hardware purchases, upgrades, maintenance, and repairs. Non-essentials (video games and consoles, e-readers, security cameras, etc.) aren’t included. 

I included my phone upgrade in the cell phone category, but that is technically currently costing me $55 a month.

Part 3: Adding it all up

Now that we’ve detailed all of Nadia’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 North Vancouver?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Mortgage$0$0
Property tax$131$1,572
Strata/HOA fees
$370$4,440
Home insurance$50$600
Maintenance$40$480
TOTAL$591$7,092

Home equity opportunity cost: $37,500/year

Note: jump to the Home equity opportunity cost section for details on this optional ‘expense’.

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Vehicle loan$0$0
Vehicle insurance$150$1,800
Gas$35$420
Vehicle maintenance$60$720
Bike maintenance$0$0
Parking and tolls$0$0
Transit$0$0
TOTAL$245$2,940

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Groceries$400$4,800
Eating out$400$4,800
TOTAL$800$9,600

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Natural gas$0$0
Electricity$30$360
Water, garbage and recycling$0$0
Internet$74$888
Home phone$0$0
Cell phones$105$1,260
Streaming entertainment$12$144
TOTAL$221$2,652

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Life and disability insurance$160$1,920
Medical insurance$0$0
Out-of-pocket medical expenses$0$0
Clothing and footwear$100$1,200
Personal care$40$480
Technology$0$0
TOTAL$300$3,600

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Housing$591$7,092
Transportation$245$2,940
Food$800$9,600
Utilities and bills$221$2,652
Other essentials$300$3,600
TOTAL$2,157$25,884

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 some additional expenses that Nadia wanted to share:

Ski passes ($1,500/year)

We absolutely love skiing. Especially during COVID, it was one of those activities that kept us sane. My rule of thumb is that I’ll never feel guilty spending money on something that makes me truly happy, and skiing definitely falls into this category. 

We currently hold passes to two separate mountains—Grouse Mountain (local mountain) and Whistler—about 1.5 hours away. Grouse Mountain has night skiing, so we can literally go anytime after work, but Whistler is on a different, much more sophisticated level. 

To me, this cost is worth every penny. The number one reason why we’re so eager to reach FI fast is that we get to do more of the things that make us happy and skiing definitely plays a huge part!

Travel ($3,500/year)

Just like skiing, travel plays a big role in our lives. We try to take at least a couple of international trips each year and smaller weekend getaways during the rest of the year. 

We would definitely get to FI much faster if we cut the cost around our adventures, but we would probably be miserable getting there and likely would give up halfway. 

We do believe that we need to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Best part is that along the way, we’re learning what makes us happy and what we’d like our early retirement to look like. 

Other sports and hobbies ($50/year)

Aside from skiing and travelling, there are many other sports that fill our free time that we absolutely love, but they don’t really cost as much to earn their own category. Tennis, for example, is one of those sports that is very pricey where I’m from, but we’re extremely lucky to be able to play for free in Vancouver. 

We have multiple tennis courts to choose from, and they’re all maintained by the city. The only cost is your own equipment. We play every week to the point where we created our own tennis club with our friends, and those tournaments get very competitive and hilarious at the same time!

Vancouver is also extremely bikeable. No matter your preference (on the road, in the forest, by the ocean), all these trails are minutes away from our home. Throw a couple beers into a backpack, get on your bike, watch the sunset together on a beach, and it’s a recipe for a perfect date! The only cost is your bike! 

We invested quite a lot of money into our bikes, but we’re planning to keep them for a long time and literally use them instead of our car 90% of the time. My work also contributed $500 towards my bike to encourage biking to work.

And last, but not least, hiking/snowshoeing! With the number of trails in North Vancouver, we’re very lucky to be able to hike/snowshoe (in winter) whenever we desire. Best part is that it’s completely free (other than equipment like snowshoes) and makes for amazing experiences!

Nadia’s closing thoughts

Many people say that Vancouver is an extremely expensive city to live in. And it is—if you live in a big house, drive expensive cars and shop in Whole Foods daily. 

However, if you can be mindful of your spending, focus your energy and money on things that make you happy as opposed to stuff that impresses your neighbours, you can thrive in this city. If you love the outdoors, it’s a perfect destination where you can have it all (ocean, mountains, snow, forest). 

Taxes are not cheap in North Vancouver, but in return, the city takes care of you by providing many opportunities for adventure (tennis courts, biking trails, rec centres, etc.) for a fraction of the cost compared to other countries. 

If you only follow your dreams and stay true to your values, you can reach FIRE even in an expensive city. We’re yet to see if that’s possible, but each day that we stay on this path gets us closer. 

Chrissy’s takeaways

Thank you to Nadia for sharing her and her husband’s expenses. I enjoy all my interviews, but it’s extra-special when I get to interact with non-bloggers like Nadia. I’m so grateful that she, Ana and Carrie took the time to share their stories with me and all of you.

Here are my takeaways from Nadia’s interview:

HCOL cities don’t have to mean high-cost

This series has been such an eye-opener for me. Time and time again, my interviewees show us that high-cost-of-living areas do not automatically resign you to a crazy-expensive lifestyle. 

Yes, as Nadia mentions, it certainly can cost a lot to live in the Vancouver area. But, as evidenced in her interview, you can live inexpensively—even in a notoriously costly, highly desirable city like North Vancouver. 

Smart, frugal choices (such as living in a smaller space) made it possible for Nadia and her husband to easily afford to live in North Vancouver. Not only that, but they’ll also reach FI in their late-30s or early-40s. How amazing is that?

It (mostly) comes down to housing

As I’ve noted in previous interviews (such as this one with Chris), housing makes the most significant difference in the cost of living in a large, expensive city versus a smaller, cheaper city. You’ll save on mortgage costs, property tax and opportunity cost.

These are some of the largest expenses for most of us, and being able to economize on them can make a huge difference. Nadia and her husband have done just this—by living in a small condo. As a result, their property tax is minimal (by Vancouver standards, at least)!

For many, living small and minimally is an unconventional choice. The mainstream belief is to buy as much house as you can afford. Instead, Nadia and her husband have chosen to prioritize other areas in their life that truly bring them joy. 

This not only helps them reach FIRE sooner but is more fulfilling and meaningful to them. It’s pretty tough to question that logic!

Once again—FIRE does not require deprivation!

Am I sounding like a broken record yet? Contrary to what mainstream media would have us believe, FIRE does not require deprivation. As Nadia and my previous guests demonstrate, living the FIRE life is the complete opposite of misery and going without!

While the majority of Nadia and her husband’s expenses are optimized, they don’t optimize everything. They spend more on things they value, such as skiing and travel (which are both rather costly activities). However, if there was a happiness per dollar scale, I’d wager that Nadia would put skiing and travel very close to the top!

Chrissy’s closing thoughts

I would love to live Nadia’s life! (Don’t get me wrong—I love my life too.) But doesn’t she make it sound fun to live minimally and indulgently at the same time? 

Nadia and her husband have found the perfect balance—they’re minimal with their essentials so they can indulge in what brings them the most joy and pleasure. This is one of the keys to living a happy and satisfying FIRE life. 

Nadia’s optimized spending also lays to rest the assumption that HCOL cities are unlivable. She’s shown that it’s possible to take advantage of the best of city living without giving up financial freedom. Thanks again for sharing your story, Nadia (and for helping me slay all kinds of FIRE myths)!

Share your thoughts

Were you surprised by Nadia’s essential expenses? Are any of them significantly different from where you live? Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your own money saving tips!

Join the series!

I’d love for everyone to participate—whether you’re a blogger or not! The more FIRE seekers I can interview, the more useful the series will be. If you’re interested, I have three simple requirements:

  1. You’re at or pursuing FIRE (or FI).
  2. You track your expenses relatively accurately.
  3. You’re willing to share your expenses and money-saving tips.

That’s it! If you’re interested, fill in the form at this link or contact me.

Pittsburgh, PA probably doesn’t come to mind when thinking of FIRE-friendly places to live. But you may just rethink that after reading about Vi and her husband’s low expenses!

Have you ever wondered how much it costs to live in Warren Buffet’s hometown? Well, now you can find out! Jonathan shares how much it costs his family to live in Omaha, NE.

Visit the intro page to learn more about the what and why behind the series and access the complete list of interviews.

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Steveark
    September 29, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I don’t understand your tennis costs. I break strings on average of at least once or twice a month, that’s $75 a month. My wife has at least three stringings a year that’s another $120 a year. We go through four cans of tennis balls a week on average. That’s $10 a week. We barely get six months on a pair of shoes so that’s four pair a year at $400 total. We wear out a couple of pairs of clothes each year, $200 total a year. $100 a year on sports drink and gel for super hot weather tennis. We travel out of town and out of state for team matches and sectionals if one of us wins a state title. That’s $2,000 a year roughly. Plus we will average one new racquet each a year because those break all the time, that’s $300 a year. All that adds up to $4,540 a year. Or $2,540 if we dropped team competition and just played recreational tennis. We have free courts too, but these other costs are real. Are you sure you didn’t leave some costs out of your tennis hobby?

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 29, 2021 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Steve—thanks for checking out Nadia’s interview and taking the time to comment.

      I know you and your wife are very skilled tennis players and that you take it seriously, so you know your stuff! (I, on the other hand, am horrible at tennis and have zero knowledge about the costs.)

      Given my lack of knowledge, I won’t even attempt to share my own thoughts on this cost discrepancy! But, as you’ve shown, to play a sport regularly, there will be ongoing and sometimes expensive costs. You gotta pay to play! (Especially if you want to play well.)

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 29, 2021 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Steve—Nadia shared some info about her tennis costs with me. She said:

      “My tennis expenses are close to nothing, I string my racket every 2 or 3 years haha. And clothes are part of my clothing expenses… courts are free.”

      This just goes to show that there’s a huge range in how much one can spend! (As is the case with many things in life, including raising kids, sports, post-secondary education, cars, etc.)

      I’ve found this to be the case with my family’s ski equipment. We COULD get new stuff every year and pay to have it professionally tuned. But we just ski for pleasure, and we’re far from competitive level, ha ha. So the same old gear (and it’s even already used to start with) does the job for us!

      However, as mentioned, I know you and your wife play at a very high level. I’m sure you really notice the difference between brand-new and used equipment.

    • Reply
      Nadia
      September 30, 2021 at 1:18 am

      Hi Steve, as Chrissy mentioned, I’m not at the level of tennis where it’s costing me over $4000 per year. I string my racket every couple years, my clothes expense was part of clothing section, drinks and food was part of food section and there’s definitely no tournaments I fly to, I bike to tennis courts by my house to play a friendly match with my friends 🙂 my biggest expense was my racket, but Im hoping it will last me for at least 5 years.

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    September 29, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Such amazing costs considering you’re in one of the most expensive places in the WORLD! Supper impressive, kudos to you and your partner. Thanks for coming on to share your story/expenses. I too think it’s very important to focus on those outdoor activities for your sanity (hiking, skiing, tennis). But as you’ve showcased, even including those “extras” doesn’t lead to a crazy annual spend. Well done! -I love how low you’ve been able to keep your core spending on housing, transportation, and food down due to being minimalist and mindful with your spending. And I agree with Chrissy, I love when non-bloggers come on to share their story so thanks for that!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 29, 2021 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Court—you’re right, Vancouver/North Van are near the top of the list for expensive cities worldwide. It just makes Nadia’s low essential costs that much more impressive!

      I wonder if living somewhere like North Van would be a financially-wise choice for anyone who’s an outdoors enthusiast? When nature is right in your backyard, you can save a lot of time and money when you want to go adventuring.

  • Reply
    Teresa
    September 29, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    I am truly amazed at how Nadia and her husband prioritize their spending to pursue what they love like skiing, biking & travelling. I love to hear how they are happy and content with their small 2 bedroom condo and have not felt the need to upgrade to a larger home which will mean spending needlessly on real estate commissions, property transfer tax, moving costs and increased monthly strata fees, plus a mortgage on top of it all! It is so great to be a minimalist because I have been decluttering and now I think 3 times before I buy something new. For me, it is so refreshing to see young people in their mid 30s live so sensibly – to enjoy so much, yet being so frugal and mindful of their spending. Good for you, Nadia – you are a good role model even for a retiree like me!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 29, 2021 at 8:25 pm

      Hi Mom—Nadia certainly deserves all your kind praise. It’s not easy going against cultural norms, choosing to live in a small place (when they very well could afford bigger) and keeping their lives minimal.

      In the end, Nadia and her husband will have real wealth and freedom at a young age while most of their peers will toil into their senior years to (hopefully) pay off their large mortgages. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you, if that’s what they consciously chose.

      I just hope more people will be as mindful as Nadia with their money, so they can live the lives that bring them true fulfillment. (As Nadia’s does!)

  • Reply
    Mrs FDU
    September 29, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    I love that travel is just something they will not compromise on!
    We are much the same. Wish I knew how to ski though haha.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be handy enough to maintain the house and car. Very jealous about that.
    Thanks for sharing that Chrissy 🙂

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 29, 2021 at 8:39 pm

      Hi Mrs. FDU—we’re exactly the same with travel! (Though I’m having some inner struggles with that right now, given the impact of flying on climate change. 😢 Still not sure how we’ll proceed once travel is possible again… but that’s a whole other post in itself!)

      Regarding skiing—clumsy me learned how to ski at 34 years old. If I could figure it out, anyone can! You should give it a try. We’ve got plenty of Aussies here on our local hills to teach you!

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read and comment. ❤️

      • Mrs FDU
        September 30, 2021 at 8:19 pm

        I feel sorry for Canada – Aussies everywhere there! Haha

        Oh yes, my best advice would be slow travel. But also just do your best. You can’t deprive yourself of our beautiful planet to preserve it. Make you differences elsewhere.. But yes agree, for another time 😛

      • Chrissy
        September 30, 2021 at 11:40 pm

        Hi again Mrs. FDU—what do you mean? Aussies are the best! 🙂

        Yes, slow travel is definitely a good way to minimize our impact. We have always aimed to do this, and are planning to slow down even more once my husband reaches FI. You are right that we can consider other ways to make a difference. Lots to ponder!!!

  • Reply
    A
    September 29, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    I’m curious about the ski hill costs – 500$/year as season passes for 2 adults at 2 ski hills….how is this possible? Seems like a gross underestimate.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 29, 2021 at 9:55 pm

      Hi A—I’m assuming you meant $1,500, not $500 as that’s what Nadia’s shared as her annual skiing expense.

      I know it may be hard to believe, but Grouse Mountain, which Nadia does most of her skiing on, offers an amazing pass called the Y2Play pass. It’s under $500 CAD per adult for 1.5 seasons of unlimited skiing. It’s a crazy deal, and my family has taken advantage of it many times over the years.

      As for Whistler, I don’t think Nadia skis there as regularly. If she went only a few times per season, that would bring her to about $1,500/year for her and her husband’s skiing costs.

      I hope that helps to explain her lower than expected skiing expense!

      • A
        September 30, 2021 at 6:27 pm

        The Y2Play pass looks amazing. Does Nadia have similar deal for Whistler? I would love to know about that!

      • Chrissy
        September 30, 2021 at 8:16 pm

        Hi A—I’m not sure which deal Nadia uses for Whistler, and I myself am not that familiar with that they offer. But friends of mine often mention the Edge Cards as being flexible and a good deal. I also did some research and found these Epic Passes, which seem like an amazing deal!

    • Reply
      Nadia
      October 1, 2021 at 8:55 am

      Hi A, I would definitely recommend Y2Play pass! It’s an amazing deal where for $400 for adult (if you buy early- usually February) you can ski as much as you like for the remainder of that season and next season! They also just introduced this weekday pass (just went on sale actually in sept) where for about $300 you can ski any weekday. (I believe price will go up tomorrow) We got the season passes. When it comes to Whistler, we usually get 3 or 4 day epic pass (it usually turns out to be about $100 per day) so for both of us it’s roughly $1500 for all ski passes combined. This may change for us this year thou since we just paid off our mortgage in summer so we decided to up our travel and adventure budget 🙂 We’re planning to buy season passes for Whistler this year where you can go unlimited, which will allow us to do many more Whistler weekend getaways that we love so much! That means that our ski pass budget will go up to about $3000 instead of $1500 that we used to spend. (One Whistler season pass is about $1100 per person I believe) But to us worth every pennie! With epic season pass you have an access to many other mountains across US and Europe which we’d love to start exploring as well! I hope that helps answer your question. Thank you for commenting and if you’re a skier, enjoy the upcoming season! 🙂

  • Reply
    Chelsey
    September 30, 2021 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for bravely sharing your story and expenses. Only by seeing what is possible through the example of others can we sometimes see what is possible for ourselves. You have done an amazing job aligning your values and goals (for both your current and future selves). Kudos and enjoy your upcoming ski season!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 30, 2021 at 3:28 pm

      Hi Chelsey—you’re right. Nadia was very brave to share so much in her interview. Bloggers like me are used to being “out there” and, with time, it’s less scary to share our story and experiences.

      However, this was totally new to Nadia, and she chose to do this interview for no other reason than to help and inspire others. I’m thrilled to hear that her story has resonated with you and others. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. 🙏

  • Reply
    Teresa
    September 30, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    From my take on Nadia’s post, she sounds like a very sensible & practical person. She enjoys tennis but at a friendly fun level with friends and not on a highly competitive level like Steve so it makes sense that her cost is low or negligible. It likely extends to the biking and skiing that she enjoys & does not feel the need to go into debt to fund it. I like how candid Nadia is in admitting that her husband loves eating out and does it daily – to me, it is a huge expense because I love to cook and bake so cannot make myself pay the high cost but to someone who enjoys eating out, the amount is actually quite reasonable.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 30, 2021 at 3:30 pm

      Hi Mom—those are all excellent points! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s to Nadia’s willingness to be open and candid so that we can all learn and be inspired.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    September 30, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    Really appreciated this post, we have so much in common with Nadia and it reminded me of the good choices we have made to spend a little more on the things we enjoy, while cutting back on a few big ticket items, which allows us to realize big savings without feeling deprived. And btw, hubby and daughter play tennis, definitely one of the most affordable sports out there!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 30, 2021 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Nicole—it’s always nice to “meet” like-minded people, even if only online. You and Nadia have found the key to preventing deprivation while also allowing you to save a lot. This is such an important aspect of the financial journey. It’s nice to know that tennis doesn’t have to be a costly sport! Thank you for your lovely comment. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jackie
    October 1, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Great job on figuring out your priorities!
    It’s so easy for many people to upgrade their house/car/etc because they can or because it’s what others are doing.
    You’ve decided what’s important to you (his eating out, your newer phone) and that includes the freedom that you’re buying for your future selves with your smart spending.

    Kudos!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      October 1, 2021 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Jackie—you’re absolutely right that Nadia’s done well with figuring out her priorities. As you said, it can be so easy to simply follow what “everyone else” is doing. It’s not easy to go against the norm and forge your own path. But if you can, as Nadia’s done, it can make an enormous difference in your finances! Thank you so much for coming by to comment. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jillian
    October 1, 2021 at 10:48 am

    I wish I still lived in an area that wouldn’t require so much car travel. I’m going think of this article when I make my budget this month! Thx for sharing!!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      October 1, 2021 at 4:23 pm

      Hi Jillian—it’s a shame more of our cities weren’t designed around walking and biking. Most North American cities and towns are so carcentric.

      I’m glad to hear that Nadia’s interview will be helpful to you with your own budget. She’s inspired me to take another look at our expenses too!

  • Reply
    Dave
    October 5, 2021 at 3:50 pm

    They mention that they could live on $25,000 in retirement however their current life is already costing them about $26,000 without including the few discretionary expenses listed. It sounds like their ideal retirement might be more in the $30,000 to $35,000 range. Also, if they plan to travel, that would increase their expenses further depending in what is important to them in regards to travelling.

    I commend them on their current expense management. I’m just not sure if I missed something in the post that explains how they could reduce their expenses to $25,000.

    • Reply
      Dave
      October 5, 2021 at 3:53 pm

      Oops, I just realized the travel piece was in the discretionary expenses. My bad!

    • Reply
      Nadia
      October 5, 2021 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Dave,

      We plan to spend $25,000 each in retirement, not both combined 🙂 This amount includes our current fixed expenses and all our adventures, travel and hobbies. I hope that answers your question.

      • Chrissy
        October 6, 2021 at 8:06 pm

        Hi Dave—thanks for coming by to check out Nadia’s interview! I tried my best to point out that these interviews only cover essential spending. But you’re not the only one who missed this detail!

        Clearly, I’m not making it obvious enough! I’ll try to be more explicit about it in future interviews. (Thanks, Nadia, for jumping in to reply!)

  • Reply
    Shashi
    October 7, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Great interview Chrissy. Loved your description of North Vancouver.

    Nadia – kudos to you and your husband for keeping expenses low while enjoying everything North Vancouver has to offer. Love the Y2Play and Edge Card passes. For those who live in Canada and Washington State with kids (Kindergarten-Grade 5), Whistler also offers five free passes for kids.

    Wish you the best on your FIRE journey.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      October 7, 2021 at 3:38 pm

      Hi Shashi—I know you’re also very familiar with North Van. (You’ve probably spent more hours on those mountains than I’ll ever clock in my lifetime!) That’s an excellent point about the Grade 5 pass for kids. It’s an amazing deal. I’m not sure how, but we were never able to make use of it. If you can access and buy the pass, it’s an absolute steal. Thanks for the helpful comment!

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