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How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in Toronto? (As a Single)

fire life toronto conor samuel unsplash

Photo credit: Conor Samuel on Unsplash 

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

Hello, and welcome to interview #26 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 #26: Veronica in Toronto, Ontario

In today’s interview, we’ll meet Veronica from Toronto, Ontario—Canada’s largest city (and one of its most expensive). As with many of my other guests, Veronica shows it’s very much possible to live frugally, comfortably, and happily in pricey areas.

Veronica is also another of my non-blogger interviewees. (My others were AnaCarrieNadia, Ryan, and Syun.) I love featuring ‘regular’ people in this series because it proves to FIRE naysayers that it’s not just FIRE bloggers who reach FIRE. 😏

About Veronica’s interview

Veronica’s situation is unique, which meant my usual interview format didn’t fit her story. We emailed back and forth a few times, then realized: why not break the mold for her interview? So that’s what we did!

However, I should clarify: when I say “we,” I actually mean Veronica. She gets all the credit for reworking the interview. She spent a lot of time on it, and I love what she did. I hope you enjoy learning about her FIRE life over the last five years. (I know I did!)

One year of FIRE interviews! 🥳

It’s fitting that Veronica’s interview is unlike any of my others. That’s because it marks one year of my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life series. That’s right—I’ve published these amazing interviews every other week for an entire year. 

As I publish Veronica’s interview, I’m at the end of my long queue… and I’m ready for a break! It’s been so much fun, but that was a lot of interviews—it’s time for a slower pace.

Don’t worry, this series isn’t going anywhere! I have lots of partially-completed interviews waiting in the wings—I’m excited to publish them as they come in (maybe once a month or so).

Celebrating one year of interviews 🎉

To celebrate the one-year milestone for this series, I wrote a post to compile all the data from my first 26 interviews! Numbers nerds will love the sortable tables, travel fans will love revisiting the 24 cities my guests were from, and FIRE fans will love the observations and insights I’ve collected into one post.

I hope you enjoy this numbers-filled recap! I’d love to hear from you if there were any observations or insights I missed—let me know in the comments section of the post: One Year of FIRE Life Interviews: Numbers, Observations, and Insights

Thank you, interviewees, for sharing your stories and numbers. And thank you, readers, for following along and engaging with the series.

Part 1: Getting to know you

fire life toronto veronica
Veronica's bike, ready to take her to a downtown bar to watch a World Cup soccer match

Tell us about yourself

My name is Veronica. I’m in my 50’s, no partner, no children, born and raised in Toronto and back here again, thanks to the pandemic.

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

I became a Woman of Independent Means® (now doesn’t that sound SO much classier than FIRE’d?) in March of 2018. I started DIY investing in 2016. No, I didn’t win the lottery. Here’s what happened.

When I graduated from university and got my first full-time job, I did the Responsible Adult® thing and signed up with a financial planner. Upon his advice, I made monthly contributions to various mutual funds. After a number of years I became seriously discouraged. Despite making regular contributions, the pile didn’t seem to be growing. The whole thing felt like a pyramid scheme, with everyone making money except me. So I ghosted my financial planner, stopped the monthly contributions (but left the portfolio untouched) and started to let my paycheques pile up in my bank account.

In 2015 I stumbled across Mr. Money Mustache’s blog. After spending months reading every post, I finally put on my big girl pants, opened an online brokerage account, took a deep breath, moved all my money into index funds, and projected that I could retire in 2023. Not bad, eh?

In 2017, while reading a blog post on calculating net worth, I had an “Aha” moment. I’m of the opinion that your residence and your portfolio are two separate things and don’t mix. Houses/residences are for living in. Portfolios are for living off of. However, the blog post got me thinking that if I “re-balanced” and had a less expensive house and a bigger portfolio I could quit my job Right. This. Minute.

And so my 8 year runway to reach FIRE shrank to 8 months.

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.

Given that my decision to leave full-time employment was rather impulsive, I would say I’m FIRE without a plan?

My drawdown strategy is $40,000 or 4% of my portfolio, whichever is less, taken out once per year in December to cover expenses for the following calendar year (It’s a tax thing). In reality, I have only withdrawn $25,000 per year so far, and that’s been enough.

Tell us about your living situation

My living situation since becoming a Woman of Independent MeansTM has been a bit chaotic. In the fall of 2018 I moved to central Spain for the remainder of that year. In 2019, I lived in Spain except for the summer months for which I had returned to Canada. The start of 2020 found me back in Spain, but I had purchased my ticket to return to Toronto for the summer and had made plans to move to the south of France starting in September 2020.

However, Covid had other plans for me. I abruptly (72 hours lead time) left Spain in May 2020 and made my way back to Toronto. The plans for France (and future plans for the Northwest Territories) were completely nuked.

Why did you choose to live in Toronto?

It had always been my plan to return to Canada full time when I grew tired of being a nomad. Covid accelerated that plan by two years.

In the summertime, there is no part of Canada that I would not consider living in. But in the winter…… I’m not into long, cold winters, so that eliminates large swaths of the country. The other criteria was public transit. 

I looked at several smaller cities, because the real estate prices were much more reasonable, but some of these places had public transit systems that packed it in at 7pm. Like seriously??!!! So that left the three major centres: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal. Toronto was closest to more of my Canadian and American family members, so Toronto won. 

Part 2: The expenses

To say that my living circumstances have been a bit chaotic in the last few years would be an understatement. Rather than trying to present typical costs per category, I thought I’d present my overall living costs from 2017 to 2021. 

Interestingly, despite the chaos, my annual spend remained in the same ballpark each year, but the categories where it got spent differed depending on the circumstances. Note that the annual spending amounts that I have listed are for everything (travel, donations, gifts, athletic fees, etc.), not just for the categories that Chrissy tracks.

2017—Working towards FIRE in Toronto ($24,350) 🇨🇦

What the year looked like

In 2017 I was living solo in a semi-detached house, which I owned mortgage-free, in the inner suburbs of Toronto. I worked full time. I got around town on my bicycle (7 months) or public transit (5 months). In short, I was blissfully working my way towards retiring in 2023, right up until my “aha” moment.

Top five spending categories

1. Property taxes—$3,800

2. Groceries—$2,960

3. Travel—$2,620 (included a trip to the south of France to attend a friend’s wedding.)

4. Eating out—$1,575 (mostly going out for beer and wings after playing hockey.)

5. Transit—$805 (I bought a monthly transit pass for the 5 months I find it impractical to cycle.)

Related: How to Save Money on Groceries (36 Valuable Tips)

2018—FIRE in Spain ($28,275) 🇨🇦

What the year looked like

I was laser focused on quitting my job. This required me to sell my house (it sounds so simple when I type out the sentence, but believe me it was a gut wrenching process that could be a stand alone blog post!). Although I was not due to move to Spain until September, for tax purposes I resigned from my job in March, and used the months before my departure to sell the house myself.

Top five spending categories

1. Property Guys—$4520 (I chose to use a service to help me sell my house because I wanted it to be listed on MLS. I chose a high end package because it came with features that I wanted help with including an appraisal, assistance with contract negotiation and legal services. 

The price seems steep but when you factor in that it includes the lawyer’s fees, it’s actually reasonable. My experience selling with the help of Property Guys is a blog post in itself but in summary, your experience—and the value you get from using them—will depend on the person assigned as your contact/support person. At least, that was my experience).

2. Property taxes—$3,600 (The property closed in October so I only had to pay ¾ of the annual property taxes.)

3. Groceries—$2,530

4. Dental work—$1,800 (Step 1 of a multi-step implant process.)

5. Rent—$1,465 (Obviously this was paid in €, but I’ve converted it to $Cdn to keep everything equal. This included a temporary stay in an AirBnb before I found a room in a shared apartment to rent in Spain.)

2019—Nomad life ($18,705) 🇨🇦

What the year looked like

I spent 9 months living in central Spain, returning to Canada for the summer months. In Spain, I lived in a shared apartment with two others. For June, July, August I did a combination of pet sitting, visiting family and some couch surfing at friends’ houses to fill in the gap between pet sitting gigs. 

While this kept my costs down, I found the process of constantly moving to be gruelling. I was quite looking forward to returning to Spain and staying in one place for more than a fortnight. Sharing an apartment while in Spain also made my housing costs inexpensive (about 200 € per month, not including utilities), but moving in with strangers is not for everyone. 

When travelling around Spain, I tried to land a pet sitting gig in the city I wanted to visit so that I wouldn’t have to pay for accommodation. It worked some of the time. For the rest, I rented AirBnBs. While I managed to live very cheaply in 2019, it was not a sustainable lifestyle for me and I wouldn’t do it again like this.

Top five spending categories

1. Storage locker—$3,860 (I divested a lot of my possessions but as I knew that I would return to Canada some day, and that I would need to re-furnish a place at that time, I rented an 8×10 storage locker for the things that I wanted to keep. While I questioned the wisdom of paying to hang on to these items, boy was I glad I did, given the circumstances of my return!)

2. Travel—$3,045 (This included airfare to and from Canada for the summer months as well as travel around Spain during the year.)

3. Rent—$2,930 (Note that in Spain rent does not include utilities, which can get hefty, if you insist on heating the apartment in the winter.)

4. Groceries—$2,540 (Shopping for groceries when I was constantly moving in the summer months was a challenge, especially if you’re moving places by bicycle, like I was. I was paying a premium for purchasing small quantities or meal kits. But it was healthier than constantly getting takeout/eating out.)

5. Meals out—$1,040 (Split almost evenly between Spain and Canada. I went out a lot more often in Spain, but the prices were much cheaper there.)

2020—COVID and returning to Toronto ($24,325) 🇨🇦

What the year looked like

Oh boy, did my plans ever go sideways! The plan had been to stay in Spain until the end of May, spend June, July and August in Canada applying for a visa for France, and moving to the south of France in September. But, you know, COVID. 

Initially, I was going to stick to my plan of returning to Canada in June, given that I had cheap accommodation and health care in Spain (and neither in Canada). But the situation became so dire I was worried that there would be no return flights. So I abruptly left Spain (and that is another entire blog post on its own!) 

This is where I realized just how rich I am, when various friends stepped forward and worked out a plan for me to safely quarantine and to stay in afterwards. Like the TV advertisement says—Priceless. I did contribute to my friends’ households both financially and with sweat equity, but I was still paying well below market rates. 

I rented an AirBnB for the last quarter of the year and I was extremely lucky to purchase a place that closed December 1st, just as the AirBnB rental was winding up. 

Top five spending categories

1. Rent—$8,720 (This included the rent I paid in Spain, the money I paid to friends that were sheltering me, as well as the AirBnB I rented for 3.5 months. Like I said above, my friends were sheltering me for well below market rates.)

2. Storage locker—$3,745 

3. Groceries—$2,500

4. Travel—$1,790 (Buying a one-way plane ticket last minute is expensive.)

5. Donations—$1,515 (This is about average for my annual charitable giving but my other expenses were so low that it made the top five list in 2020.)

2021—Home ownership (again) in Toronto ($26,275) 🇨🇦

What the year looked like

So here I am, back in Toronto. I purchased a 2 bedroom flat in a walkup, co-op building in midtown Toronto. It was a cash deal so there’s no mortgage. The neighbourhood is very walkable with great transit options and a brand spanking new bike lane on Yonge Street, so that I can continue with my cycling/transit way of life. 

Top five spending categories

1. Maintenance fee—$8,827 (At first glance this seems high, but it includes property taxes, heat, water, garbage/recycling, lawn service/snow shovelling, cleaning and maintenance of common areas, yearly window washing, parking, use of laundry facilities plus a contribution to the reserve fund for major maintenance work. Basically the only items I pay for beyond the maintenance fee are electricity and internet.)

2. Groceries—$3,410 (The higher amount here is partially due to having to restock a pantry and partially because food prices have gone up. I’m hoping I can reduce this amount going forward.) 

Related reading: Detailed Flashfood Review (Groceries for 50-70% Off)

3. Repairs/renovations—$2,269 (The flat was move-in ready. The only changes I made this year were painting interior walls, the addition of a bedroom ceiling fan including the electrical for the ceiling fixture, and having retractable screens installed on the two balcony doors.)

4. Donations—$2,232 (There are a lot of people hurting during this pandemic so I tried to be more generous this year. This is an area that I really struggle with—giving money away—when I worked so hard and sacrificed some to accumulate it. But my oxygen mask is now firmly in place so it’s time for me to learn how to be generous and help others.)

5. Sports/Activities—$1,854 (Lock down restrictions were finally lifted so I splurged on a tennis membership, hockey league fees and a curling membership.)

Part 3: Veronica’s final thoughts

Toronto doesn’t have to be expensive

Most people think of Toronto as a high cost of living area. That’s true if you have to borrow money to buy real estate. But if you’re not carrying a mortgage, the cost of living in Toronto can be quite reasonable. It also helps if you’re willing to think outside the box. In my case, I was able to purchase an apartment at a 20–25% discount by targeting co-op buildings. There are drawbacks to living in a co-op so it’s not for everyone, but it works really well for me.

Find free or low-cost activities

Toronto is also cited as an expensive city to entertain yourself in. Again true, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The city offers many opportunities for activities/experiences that are free or low cost (at least, they were before COVID shut everything down). For example, my annual pass to the Art Gallery of Ontario sets me back $35. If you’re under 25, you can get an annual pass to the AGO for free. I’m hopeful that the street festivals/concerts, outdoor movie screenings, live theatre in the park, outdoor pools, outdoor ice rinks, etc. all return to normal again some day soon.

Go car-free

If you’re willing to avoid car ownership, it makes living in Toronto even more economical. Avoiding car ownership does not mean never driving a car—there’s car sharing companies for use in the city and car rental companies for when you do need one to get away. But generally speaking, a car is more of a hindrance than a help in an urban setting. And public transit just keeps getting better. They’ve made transit family friendly by letting children under the age of 12 years old ride for free. I’m also stoked that there is now a public bus service from Toronto to Algonquin Park so that I can entertain the idea of going wilderness camping again, sans car.

It takes a bit of creativity, but it is absolutely possible to live frugally in a high cost of living city like Toronto.

Final words of advice

My final words of advice for future FIRE-ees:

When I was planning my FIRE number, I deliberately set it higher than what my actual annual spending was at the time. My reasoning was that working full time prevented me from doing things simply because I didn’t have the time to fit them in. Some of those things were low cost (e.g. volunteering) while others were not (more/longer trips). On this point I was spot on—once the pandemic fizzles out, I anticipate spending more than I did pre-FIRE. 

However, when I was planning my FIRE number, I did not do a good job of accounting for taxes. In theory, because my income is low, I thought I wouldn’t be paying taxes. But I am. And this cuts into the amount I have available to spend. So, now that my life, and expenses, will be a bit more predictable (I can only hope!), I’ll turn my attention to what is happening with my taxes. But don’t make my mistake—get a good grip on your taxes so it doesn’t bite you after you’ve FIRE’d!

Part 4: Chrissy’s takeaways

Thanks again to Veronica for taking the time to detail and share her story and numbers. I’m really missing travel right now, so I very much enjoyed living vicariously through Veronica’s story!

As I mentioned in the intro, I love how her interview turned out. It was eye-opening to see Veronica’s expenses from multiple years, in a variety of living arrangements and locations. She shared some great takeaways in her final thoughts, but I’ll also share some of my own:

Optimizations can yield life-changing results

By ‘rebalancing’ into a smaller home and more stock market investments, Veronica’s “8 year runway to reach FIRE shrank to 8 months”! She didn’t need to earn more money or cut her spending—all she had to do was optimize what she already had. How amazing is that? 

Take a look at your own financial picture: recurring expenses, investments, investment fees, taxes, etc. Are there any optimizations you can implement? Think outside the box (like Veronica did)—that’s often where you’ll get the most bang for your buck!

Get creative to save on housing 

While Toronto is one of Canada’s priciest cities, Veronica’s kept her housing costs low by getting creative. She started by downsizing her home in Toronto (which helped her reach FIRE early). Next, she economized in Spain by living with roommates.

After that, Veronica went one step further by doing pet sitting to access free accommodations! Finally, when she returned to Toronto and became a homeowner again, she purchased an apartment in a co-op. This was an unconventional decision, but it sure paid off.

If unaffordable housing’s got you down, fight back by getting creative like Veronica. Consider solutions like hosting international homestay students, living outside the city, or moving in with family or friends. You don’t have to use these tactics forever, but every month you choose to, you’ll significantly shrink your housing costs. 

Related: 13 Ways to Reach FI Sooner (Even if You Live in an Expensive City)

Personal versus general rate of inflation

Except for 2021, Veronica’s annual grocery spending was astoundingly consistent (and shockingly low). With inflation on the rise, it’s a good time to share an important point here: your personal rate of inflation is different from the general rate of inflation.

My family’s grocery spending is another example of this. Since 2015, our grocery costs have not only not inflated, but they’ve actually gone down or stayed the same. This is due to various reasons: us getting better at economizing, hosting fewer homestay students, and intermittent fasting.

While Veronica and my family’s grocery costs won’t remain stable forever, our experiences show it’s possible to keep an expense steady for a long time. Keep this in mind when inflation news sends you into a panic: rising prices don’t have to lead to higher spending. 

Related: if inflation does hit you, I’ve got a whole series of interviews and other posts you can reference for money-saving ideas.

Chrissy’s closing thoughts

I’m so glad that Veronica found a way to share her story and numbers with us. She’s demonstrated  beautifully how thinking outside the box can translate into incredible things (like shrinking your FIRE journey from 8 years down to 8 months)!

As my husband and I begin our post-FIRE lives, I’m more motivated than ever to continue making unconventional choices as Veronica has. It’ll not only help sustain our nest egg but also keep our minds engaged and active. Thank you for the inspiration, Veronica, and congrats on all your financial success.

Share your thoughts

Were you surprised by how consistent (and low) Veronica’s spending has been—no matter her living situation? 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.

Numbers nerds will love this post! In it, I review and analyze one year of How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interviews with sortable tables, observations and insights, and Top 5 lists!

Kathrin lives in high-cost London, England, yet she keeps her expenses exceptionally low… and she’ll still reach FI in her 30s. Find out how in her interview!

Visit the intro page to 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
    January 19, 2022 at 11:03 am

    What a great post! Veronica, have you ever thought about starting a blog? I love your writing and would very much enjoy learning more about your story!

    • Reply
      January 19, 2022 at 4:25 pm

      Hi Danielle—thanks so much for reading and commenting! I agree that Veronica would make a fantastic blogger. Her writing is funny, insightful, and entertaining!

      • veronica
        January 20, 2022 at 8:01 am

        Thanks for your kind words Danielle and Chrissy. While I do enjoy writing, I don’t think I have enough discipline to be a blogger. It’s a huge amount of work producing content regularly! I don’t know if I want to work that hard. I’d much prefer posting occasionally on someone else’s blog. Also, as a middle aged, semi-priveledged, white woman I’m not sure I have anything new to add to the conversation. I’d rather leave the space open for more diverse voices.

        My thanks to Chrissy for giving me the space to share my story. I’ve learned so much from reading the personal finance blogs of others that I felt the need to pay it back to the community.

      • Chrissy
        January 21, 2022 at 8:20 pm

        Hi Veronica—you’re always welcome to share updates and/or guest posts here anytime (if you ever feel the desire to share more of your story and knowledge)!

        In my opinion, your story as a single female, not in her 20s or 30s, who thinks so outside the box makes you a diverse voice in the FIRE community. I’m so grateful that you took so much time to rework the interview!

  • Reply
    Thomas A Waffle (Ryan)
    January 19, 2022 at 11:38 am

    A wonderful profile and I like the method of including the top 5 spending categories. I’m always looking for different ways to take a look at my expenses and last year did a review of the top 10 places I spent money. It’s a great way to see trends or evaluate where you’re spending your money to see if it matches your intentions/goals.

    I’m super excited to see someone bring up taxes – we all pay them, whether they’re income based, property or sales taxes, and I don’t always hear FIRE/PF people talk about plans for how they’re budgeting for taxes after they stop working. I have attempted to estimate our future tax burden, but you never really know until you get there – the rules may change, your income/assets/spending might be different than you expected. Even thought it’s not cut and dry, we should make sure it’s one of the things we’re all thinking about and talking about. I’m curious to know more about why Veronica’s taxes were higher than expected – were her estimates off, her income different than expected, something she didn’t anticipate?

    • Reply
      January 19, 2022 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Ryan—I didn’t think to look at our “top X expenses” over multiple years, but now that you mention it, I’d like to do the same! It would be interesting to see what kinds of trends emerge.

      I agree that taxes are not discussed often enough. They’re a significant factor when planning withdrawals and can’t be ignored. I will try to give this area more focus as I share updates on our withdrawals post-FI. I’ll also let Veronica know about your comment and will see if she has time to reply!

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! I hope you’re doing well. 🙂

      • veronica
        January 20, 2022 at 8:18 am

        Hi Ryan. Thanks for your comments. With respect to taxes, I had it in my head that my income would be low enough, and that the dividends in my taxable accounts are all Qualified Dividends, making them tax advantageous that I wouldn’t be paying any income taxes. I formulated that idea based on reading blog posts like the one written by Millennial Revolution where they discussed tax-free portfolio withdrawals. So I thought to myself, okay, when I withdraw from my RRSP there will be a withholding tax, but I’ll get that money back when I file my taxes. Except when I received my tax return, I didn’t get the full amount of money that had been withheld. Needless to say, this mucked up my finances a bit. It wasn’t a serious problem for me because I also kept a very healthy cash stockpile which I dipped into slightly to make up the difference. But I would like to understand my tax situation better going forward, partly to avoid surprises and partly because I like having some new personal finance related thing to learn.

      • Chrissy
        January 21, 2022 at 8:25 pm

        Thanks for explaining your tax situation, Veronica. It goes to show how valuable it is to have more than enough in retirement. Lean FIRE can set you free sooner, but it doesn’t provide any cushion to absorb surprises. I’m glad you were able to manage just fine. Your can-do, constructive attitude towards learning more is fantastic! I’m sure that played a big role in you reaching FIRE.

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    January 19, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Great interview and thank you Veronica for sharing your story! I too really enjoyed this format. It’s great to see year over year how your spending changed in various categories yet overall relatively stayed the same. As a fellow hockey player, as I was reading your interview I had a feeling you were too just from your writing – isn’t that weird!?

    Clearly the first TO house helped accelerate your journey to FI and I’m so glad that light bulb moment went off for you. Yes you had to “sacrifice” by downshifting over the years but clearly it’s working out or else you would have gone back to work to afford a larger pad… but who wants to do that once they’ve gotten a taste of the good life.

    • Reply
      January 19, 2022 at 4:48 pm

      Hi Court—that’s so funny that you had a feeling that Veronica’s a hockey player too! I get a similar sense about people who are frugal/mindful with their spending. I guess somehow, we just have that intuition around like-minded people.

      It’s true that Veronica’s first house helped a lot. A lot of people might say it’s ‘just’ luck. But I always point out that luck doesn’t just happen. It took conscious decision-making, preparation and effort to capitalize on that opportunity. It also took Veronica’s willingness to “sacrifice” and live differently. That takes courage!

      Most people aren’t willing to live that way… but as you and I and others in the FI community know, those types of decisions lead to that “good life” you mention!

      • veronica
        January 20, 2022 at 8:33 am

        Hi Court. Thank you for reading the interview. And for commenting. I have “proof” that at least THREE people read my story!!

        What?!!?? How could you tell from my writing that I was a hockey player??? Okay, when I wrote about the hockey league fees, yes, that’s pretty obvious. But before that?

        Believe me the first house was not just luck. With a first mortgage at 11% and a second mortgage at 13%, the value of the house dropping by 20% in the first few years of ownership, not to mention semi-regular periods of unemployment, the word “stupid” might be a better description. At that time I had more than one person tell me to let the house go and cut my losses, but I ignored them all. It’s not that their advice wasn’t sound, it’s just that they didn’t know me and how stubborn/gritty I can be when the need arises. My advice to others: you know yourself better than any financial advisor/bank manager/well meaning friend or relative – listen to what your gut is telling you. Where I did get lucky was interest rates consistently falling and the economy improving, providing me with steady employment.

        As for sacrificing, I don’t feel I’ve sacrificed at all. Especially not when I’m lying in bed at 7 am listening to someone else deal with the snow from Monday’s blizzard!

      • Chrissy
        January 21, 2022 at 8:32 pm

        FYI—as of today, your interview has been viewed 249 times! So that’s way more than just three people. 😉

        Thanks for sharing more of your home ownership story. I would certainly agree that it was not luck and definitely your grit that got you so far ahead! Grit is such a valuable characteristic for FIRE-seekers to have, and you seem to have it in spades.

        Just like your experience with your house, people on the FIRE path will constantly be confronted with people telling them they’re making a mistake. Having that stubborn stick-to-it-iveness is absolutely key to the journey.

  • Reply
    Moe (Moementum Finance)
    January 20, 2022 at 9:54 pm

    Happy first year anniversary on your FIRE interviews, Chrissy! This is an amazing accomplishment specially for being so organized to have done it every other week. 🎉 At one point in my channel I started doing weekly interviews and while I managed to run it for 3 months, it then got so overwhelming and I had to stop haha 😂 … So I must say I have a huge appreciation for your tenacity.
    As for the interview, looking at Veronica’s expenses, I am amazed how she has managed to keep her expenses so low over the years, hovering around 25K. wow! It’s amazing how she’s been able to make some frugal decisions like foregoing car ownership that helps her save significantly over time.
    Lastly, I appreciate your key takeaways. The idea of looking into optimizing one’s expenses is very important which I have heard you talk about on the podcast too. It’s incredible how what may sound like a small amount can snowball to a large some when it is recurring over a long period of time. … Thanks for sharing and looking forward to your next post!

    • Reply
      January 21, 2022 at 8:45 pm

      Hi Moe—thank you for the kind words. I don’t know how I managed to publish these interviews every other week for a year! (To be honest, it was often down to the wire!) I’m so amazed that you did weekly video interviews for three months. That’s incredible. On my podcast, there are two (and at one point, three) of us, and I have never able to do more than bi-weekly episodes!

      Veronica’s expenses are shockingly low and so inspiring. As you’ve pointed out, she’s made some key frugal decisions that have helped her reach her goals. Not everyone is willing to make decisions like hers… and that’s why most people will say FIRE is impossible, especially in places like Toronto (which Veronica’s proven is totally untrue).

      If you didn’t already figure it out, I am BIG on optimizing, ha ha. (Maybe too much so—I drive my husband crazy. 😬) But optimizing played a huge role in helping us reach FIRE, so I’m always more than happy to encourage others to apply it to their own lives.

  • Reply
    January 24, 2022 at 4:16 pm

    I am always truly amazed at all the wonderful ideas among the FIRE community! As a baby-boomer, we were so set in our ways and just followed what our parents taught us. While I am beyond FIRE, I still enjoy reading about all the experiences and creative ways so many young people are using to reach their goal instead of working till they drop from exhaustion or poor health. Thanks to Chrissy, I stopped working and finally got to smell the roses 4 years ago at a later retirement age. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks so it took her almost 3 years to work on me 🙂

    • Reply
      January 24, 2022 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Mom—you’re one of the least set-in-her-ways Baby Boomers I know! While your generation may have done things differently, you and many other Baby Boomers are open to new ideas and philosophies. I hope I’ll be as open-minded and flexible as you when I reach my senior years. (And yes, it may have taken you some time to embrace retirement, but you did come around, and I’m so glad you did!)

  • Reply
    January 24, 2022 at 8:36 pm

    Interesting. I lived and worked in Toronto for 18 yrs. Of which last 14 yrs. I was a condo home owner before I sold and relocated to VAncouver, etc. The rest of my family still live Toronto…all have their own homes bought in past 20 yrs. So I do monitor what has been going on there plus I visit…when I can.

    It’s not clear how much she paid for her home. It couldn’t have been as “cheap”…..Calgary where you can get a new 1 bedroom condo in subdivision for $300,000. Yes, seriously and we are a city of 1.3 million folks right now. I share with her observation that cycling, transit and walking in a big city, if you can do it reasonably, helps alot to redirect money elsewhere. With covid still on and for personal safety….it actually is easier and very freeing to bicyc le, if one doesn’t drive/doesn’t own a car. So highly recommended when weather gets better.

    • Reply
      January 25, 2022 at 4:11 pm

      Hi Jean—I always love your comments as you have such a unique point of view, given that you’ve lived in several Canadian cities. I don’t know how much Veronica paid for her home, but you’re right that it definitely wouldn’t have been as cheap as Calgary.

      Being able to get around without a car is indeed freeing. I envy those who can do it daily! It pains me when I add up our cost of vehicle ownership over the years. 🙁 However, I look forward to warmer, drier weather so that we can get back on our bike rides (for fun) with my dad!

  • Reply
    January 24, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    I’ve been a car-free resident for Toronto, Vancouver & Calgary for nearly 40 yrs. You save ALOT of money. Of course, these 3 cities have car-share for those who/can drive and need a car several times/yr. I’ve never had a fitness club membership…cycle commuting does naturally build in some fitness that just becomes breathing. You don’t think of it as “exercising”. It becomes something you just need to do other things.

    You do need to consciously live near at least transit (15 min. walk is the benchmark used in urban planning world for liveable neighbourhoods), some shops. Nice to be close to a park too.

    • Reply
      January 25, 2022 at 4:17 pm

      Hello again Jean—I love reading your thoughts on how regular bike riding becomes a way of being and not necessarily exercise. That part of it really appeals to me. I enjoy being outdoors and active, but I’ve never enjoyed deliberate exercise just to exercise! I agree that you do need decent infrastructure within 15 minutes to make it a viable lifestyle. I love the idea of 15-minute cities. I hope our world can move more towards that (especially in North America), and away from the sprawl that’s so damaging to the environment and our health.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2022 at 8:20 am

    Me again Chrissy. Besides taxes, the other thing that I don’t hear/see discussed much on FIRE blogs is the cost of childcare. I didn’t mention it because Life didn’t deal me that card (it took awhile, but I’ve made my peace with that). But I was listening to some parents being interviewed on CBC radio and was gobsmacked to hear what they were paying for childcare. PF blogs often say that a person’s top three expenses are housing, transportation and food, but I think for parents it might be housing, childcare and transportation!

    Perhaps it’s not discussed in FIRE circles because those parents FIRE before they have children, or have a stay-at-home parent? I honestly don’t know as that is not a road I travelled. But I’m curious to know how parents pursuing FIRE deal with this expense.

    • Reply
      January 27, 2022 at 2:40 pm

      Veronica, that’s such a good point! Maybe it doesn’t get discussed because the price of daycare is hard to control. In my part of the world, Atlantic Canada, for toddlers, daycare easily costs 200$ a week. I’m guessing it’s higher in cities like Toronto. How do I deal with it? FI inevitably gets delayed!

      • Chrissy
        January 27, 2022 at 11:26 pm

        Hi Danielle—thanks for chiming in. Childcare is not only crazy expensive, but it’s hard to access. It seems there’s always a shortage of spots. 🙁

    • Reply
      January 27, 2022 at 8:24 pm

      Loved reading your story Veronica. You’re quite right about childcare costs, we pay $2150/month for f/t daycare care for our two children in Victoria. It is BY FAR our biggest expense after housing. The daycare receives a government subsidy and it falls in the mid-range cost wise. We’re both higher income earners, so it still is worth it to pay for daycare rather than stay home with them. The daycare is absolutely amazing and they adore it, so it is the right choice for our family. Started our FIRE journey in 2020 and hoping to be work optional by 2029….. also hoping our boys will still want to hang out with us then!

      • Chrissy
        January 27, 2022 at 11:36 pm

        Hi Meghan—thanks for the detailed comment. It sounds like you found a fantastic daycare. When all the stars align (cost, quality, kids’ happiness) you can’t ask for much more than that!

        It seems Veronica was bang on in her observation that childcare would be one of a family’s biggest expenses. The one consolation with that, though, is that it’s not forever! At least it’s an expense that eventually ends and doesn’t need to be factored into a FI plan.

        Congrats on starting your FIRE journey. (I bet you’ll get there sooner than estimated. That seems to happen to many people who pursue FIRE!)

    • Reply
      January 27, 2022 at 11:24 pm

      Veronica—that’s an excellent observation. I made the conscious decision not to include childcare costs because I wanted to keep things as standard as possible.

      I know this leaves a huge hole in these spending reports. 😕 However, it seems this should be a topic on its own! I did touch on the cost of childcare in this guest post I wrote for Bob at Tawcan. It’s definitely a huge cost that can affect the journey to FI.

      It’s interesting, though. As significant of a cost as childcare is, you’re right that it’s not mentioned much in the FIRE community. I also wonder why? 🤔

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    January 29, 2022 at 7:17 pm

    Great interview and I loved the different format. Like others have mentioned it makes me want to look back on my top 5 categories over the last few years.

    As for childcare, on our particular situation we were lucky enough to have family close by. We still paid them for childcare but it was a lot more affordable because we only paid when we needed it. And because hubby is a shift worker we didn’t need childcare all the time.

    I’m currently home now with our second one and we aren’t really sure what things look like for childcare in the future. Maybe I go back to work. Maybe I stay home with the kids. Lots to think about.

    • Reply
      January 29, 2022 at 7:50 pm

      Hi Maria—it’s been so nice to hear from you and others that you enjoyed the unique format of Veronica’s interview! I’m so glad she thought to do it this way.

      It’s such an amazing gift to have family to rely on for childcare. Even though I was/am a stay-at-home mom, we needed and very much appreciated the help from our parents and other caring family members. I realize not everyone is fortunate to have this… it’s a privilege for sure.

      I’m excited to hear that you and your husband are considering having you stay home with the kids. It’s not an easy decision either way, with pros and cons on either side. I have no doubt your final decision will be well-considered (and that spreadsheets may be involved, LOL)!

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