FI Frugality Lifestyle Personal Finance

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

fire life whistler benjamin hayward unsplash

Photo credit: Benjamin Hayward on Unsplash 

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

Hello, and welcome to interview #31 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 #31: Stephen in Whistler, BC

I can’t believe it’s been seven months since my last FIRE life interview with David from Austin, Texas. I’m thrilled to continue the series with today’s fascinating interview. My guest this time is Irish expat Stephen, who lives in the stunning resort town of Whistler, BC. (One of my family’s favourite local getaways!)

Stephen’s story is unique and incredibly inspiring. He shows it’s possible to live a remarkable, adventure-filled life and reach FI… while working in an ‘unskilled’ job in a high-cost area. How does he do it? Fortunately, you can learn exactly how—Stephen shares all in his detailed, thoughtfully-written interview.

More about Stephen

I met Stephen in the ChooseFI Vancouver Facebook group, when another member asked the group to share their monthly spending and budgets. I replied with some numbers from other local FIers from BC (who were featured in other interviews in this series).

Stephen, apparently intrigued, asked for a link to the series, then messaged me to introduce himself. To my delight, he also volunteered to be interviewed… and I gladly accepted. Stephen has led a fascinating life and is so good at optimizing. (He gives Mr. Money Mustache a run for his money! 😆)

I hope you’ll enjoy learning about (and from) Stephen as much as I have. 

Part 1: Getting to know you

fire life whistler stephen


Tell us about yourself

I am originally from Ireland. I did a degree in Computer Science and then worked teaching computer programming in the university for a year. I also developed websites for B&Bs and real estate agents myself at the time. This was miniscule money but a learning experience. 

My main ambition was travel though, so I never developed this into a real company or the education into a long-term career. I had worked in hotels and bars since I was 14 and always loved the social aspect of it. While things have changed now, one of the main reasons I never went back to IT was the Mon–Fri lifestyle, office work and lack of flexibility. 

I loved shift work, random hours and random days off. It provided more freedom to do what I wanted. I didn’t like a set routine. From the service industry I could meet people from all over the world and have flexible hours and time off. 

I spent a few months travelling every summer while in Uni but in 2007 I left Ireland to go travelling long term. Between 2007 and 2012 I pretty much travelled non-stop but when I needed money I would stop and work somewhere. 

I once calculated that in a seven-year period from when I finished Uni I worked a total of one year and seven months out of seven years. I travelled to 74 different countries 233 times. I knew very little about finance, investing or anything back then. 

I usually worked minimum wage jobs in countries with high minimum wage, and travelled in cheaper countries. I was great at doing everything I wanted to do without wasting money on stuff I didn’t need. I didn’t know that nearly a decade later I’d be reading finance books teaching people about this.

In 2012, I came to Canada and while I still travel a few months a year, I have been living and working in Whistler for the majority of it. I have since become a citizen and love the outdoors here. Funnily enough, I’ve so many hobbies but most of them cost very little money.

I am currently single with no kids. I have no student debt due to University in Ireland being free, and I worked in Uni in hotels to pay my rent and living expenses. I never had any debt. I am currently 38.

If anyone wants to see what my lifestyle is like, check out my YouTube or Instagram. I don’t have much on it, but it can show you that it is not just all work and no play!! There’s a lot of fun times to be had while working towards FI. I don’t have much on this channel but am thinking of developing it more to show other people my journey of getting to FI.

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

There are a few ways of looking at this. Within the next two months or so, I am currently in a position to be FI for my current expenses. I’ve kept track of what I’ve spent on everything since 2010 down to the cent. And what I will have saved and invested by June of this year will generate that. However, that’s not necessarily my ultimate goal. 

I do eventually want a family. I’ve read a lot of your blogs recently about other costs with families and it’s definitely eye opening and feasible with my current number. While a lot of people have less costs when they aren’t working, a few of my costs will go up. 

However with a family, a good few of my costs will also go down. Living in a ski town I socialise a lot. Meaning I spend a lot on drinking in bars and eating out. With a family and kids that will definitely go down. 

Costs that people usually incur with work such as eating out, suits, commuting, etc. don’t affect me which we will go into further down on this list so perhaps a few things like food for me will go up. However, I’ve factored all this into my numbers and read a lot about other families with kids, but highly assuming if I have kids there would be a partner involved as well who has worked or might be FI also. 

My current plan is to quit my job in June. But I won’t consider myself fully FIRE. The aim is to take some much needed time off and then potentially work a few months a year within a year or two. While my current portfolio will sustain my current lifestyle, ideally I want to let this portfolio grow to a larger number while only working these few months and not drawing down on it. I have a few ideas. 

Stay in the service industry and work Jan–April for a few years while I let the investments grow. Perhaps looking into something like Data Analytics or Salesforce which is stuff I enjoy and maybe work with that remotely for a year or two. Or use my knowledge of budget travel to create videos on YouTube

To be exact, if I were to work 5 more years I could be fully FIRE and fully support a partner and multiple kids assuming that partner didn’t want to work. But I think I’m in that sweet spot now where I can quit, do a few different things over the next few years, let the investments grow and see where I’m at.  

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.

I would eventually aim for FIRE (around $40k per year). However, that’s $40k for my personal goal. Assuming whoever my future partner may be, might have a job or savings as well that could be added onto it for family costs. I feel I’m very flexible as I do like working here and there but don’t like to be tied to a full-time long-term job. 

At the moment I could do and buy everything I wanted in life and find it hard to get anywhere close to $40k in spending. That’s the beauty of my personality. Most things I love are actually cheap or free. However I don’t want to deprive a partner or kids of things they might want so I want to eventually have that extra bit for them.

Tell us about your living situation

So I am currently living in a shared house in Whistler. There are six bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 8 people. For a lot of people who work a Monday–Friday job they think this is absurd. Also generally I find in Canada and the US a lot of people like to live alone or with just their partner. I like to be social. I like people around me all the time. 

If I was offered free rent, or ownership of a house for myself I wouldn’t take it. But keep in mind, in a ski town we all work different jobs and different hours. So it’s not like there are 8 people getting up in the morning to all make food in the kitchen at the same time and overcrowding, or waiting for the same shower or bathrooms, etc. 

We all have our own lifestyles and do different things at different times. There are times I don’t see another housemate for one or two weeks. And at times it feels empty when I want more people around. I’ve got a double bedroom, with en-suite, a balcony in my room and then just off the living room and kitchen is a huge deck/balcony for hanging out/bbqing and relaxing in the sun. 

I live a ten-minute walk or three-minute cycle from work. We live 10 minutes walk from one gondola and 12 minutes from another. There are a number of lakes we can swim and hang out at within a 10-minute cycle. The supermarkets are also ten minutes away walking (3-minute cycle) as are bars and restaurants. 

Generally I walk everywhere in winter, cycle in summer and use my car only to go to the grocery store. I don’t need public transport. The main reasons I have a car is to go on adventures, camping, hiking, trips to Vancouver/Oregon/Washington etc. 

Why did you choose to live in Whistler?

I stayed here because of the lifestyle. Everything from the outdoors in both summer and winter to the social life. I hate when some places are confined to having fun on weekends. I can have fun all year around regardless of the day of the week. I love the climate. 

I left Ireland due to rain, and while Vancouver and Seattle are rainy cities, Whistler gets a lot of snow in winter, a lot of sun in summer and a few rainy months when I’m usually off travelling anyway. I love the people and the job. Unlike most small towns, it has so much to do, services-wise and entertainment-wise but in a small space. It has the potential to be really healthy if needed.

Part 2: The expenses

In this section, Stephen shares his 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 Whistler?

living room yehleen gaffney unsplash
Photo by Yehleen Gaffney on Unsplash

Rent ($385/month; $4,620/year) 🇨🇦

My rent is minimal due to being the main leaseholder and the longest person in the house. I make sure the place is clean and there are always tenants and they pay me and I pay the landlord. I include all bills and rent in one package deal and also bulk buy all cleaning supplies for the house. I get a significant discount for this, but I am also responsible financially should there be any vacant rooms in the house.

Property tax ($0) 🇨🇦

I don’t own, so no property tax.

Strata/HOA fees ($0) 🇨🇦

No strata fees.

Home insurance ($0) 🇨🇦

I tried to get home insurance once, but the few insurance companies I asked told me I couldn’t get it when living with multiple non family housemates the way I do. I didn’t try too hard as I don’t have many possessions of value and I know the landlord has insurance. It would mainly just have covered my possessions from theft.

Chrissy slashed her home insurance bill in half by switching to Square One Insurance! BONUS: Get a $25 credit when you purchase a policy through Chrissy’s link!

Home maintenance ($8/month; $96/year) 🇨🇦

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

Due to it being a rental we don’t buy much. But I buy all the cleaning supplies and lightbulbs and any new pots and pans for the house. I added this in here—the total yearly cost divided by 12 months and then divided by 8 people.

Aside from the above supplies, the landlord provides the rest of the maintenance, appliances and furniture. I know this isn’t normal in most of Canada but when I lived in Ireland and in New Zealand and here the place comes fully furnished. I’ve never needed to buy my own furniture or utensils or TVs or appliances or anything. I realise this might be strange for some people in cities, but when I lived in Ireland this was the exact same.

2. How much does transportation cost in Whistler?

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) 🇨🇦

I bought my vehicle with cash. I’ve never taken a loan.

Vehicle insurance ($78/month; $936/year) 🇨🇦

I’ve been driving since I was 19 so my insurance is very cheap as I’ve never had an accident. ICBC accepted my paperwork from Ireland for a no-claims bonus. 

Gas ($87/month; $1,044/year) 🇨🇦

Most of my gas is for road trips. I love to go camping, surf trips, visit places in BC and the States. But mostly I’m with other friends, so we split the gas. For smaller trips like hikes close by, and trips to the grocery store or Squamish, I pay the gas myself. But it doesn’t add up to much. I generally only need to top up every month or two months.

Vehicle maintenance ($69/month; $828/year) 🇨🇦

I know nothing about cars. And maintenance in Whistler is very expensive. I think around $120 per hour or so. I do now change the winter and summer tires myself which I didn’t used to do. I am going to get someone to show me how to change the oil. But sometimes I get an oil change when I’m in the States as it’s 15 mins, in and out and cheap. 

Stuff like changing the brakes I found out what was needed and one time bought the parts on eBay, another time at Canadian Tire, and then brought those parts to the mechanic to change. Rather than there being a potential inflated charge.

Bike maintenance ($0) 🇨🇦

I have two bikes. I’ve had a few flat tires but haven’t needed to do any maintenance otherwise. One of my old housemates was a bike mechanic and I bought one bike off him which came with a bunch of tires and tubes.

Parking and tolls ($0) 🇨🇦

Generally I don’t need to pay for parking or tolls. I was in Seattle last week and parked the car for 24 hours for $19 USD. But I was splitting this with friends. I don’t know of any toll roads around at the moment. Most places I go in Whistler have free parking. 

Top tip, if you are in a big city and need to park for free overnight. Drop your car in at a mechanic for something simple like an oil change. Drop it in late in the evening so you can pick up the next morning. 

When I go travelling abroad, I usually park my car in free areas in Vancouver. Sometimes I’ve left it there for a month and come back. I did the same in Seattle one time. I have friends that live in these areas to keep an eye out and I leave a key with them but there’s never been an issue.

Transit ($0) 🇨🇦

When I’m in Canada, I never need transit so I don’t have any daily transit costs. But I love to travel the world. I love overland travel. In Ireland, I took a lot of buses around when I was home for a month and in Thailand last October, I took buses around a lot as well. 

One time, I travelled from Poland to Singapore on trains across Ukraine, Russia, China and down through South East Asia. Another time, I travelled from San Diego to Ushuaia, Argentina on buses. I’ve managed to find the cheapest and most convenient ways to use public transport all over the world. 

My transit costs when travelling total $792 per year. (I looked at the average over 5 years and also the 2022 costs and it was similar.)

3. How much does food cost in Whistler?

grocery store gemma unsplash
Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Groceries ($307/month; $3,684/year) 🇨🇦

I generally shop at Independent and Nesters. While some things can be cheaper in Vancouver or Squamish most things are a similar price. This does vary over time but I’ve created a spreadsheet of many common items I buy to see where’s cheapest from Whistler, Squamish, Vancouver or Bellingham. 

The exception would be junk food at Walmart which I don’t really buy much of, and cleaning supplies and bathroom products which I buy at Dollarama. But usually I’ll stock up on these twice a year in bulk. 

I know people seem to think Walmart is cheap but for what I buy it’s not that much cheaper. Only for a few items. If I had the chance to go to a Real Canadian Superstore then sometimes this can be cheaper and the odd time Costco can, but for one person this is not really worth it for me unless I had a family. 

I don’t label myself as vegetarian or vegan but pretty much stopped buying meat and dairy products. I used to love cheese. I would bring a few kilos of cheese back from Ireland or the States but since COVID I stopped. The Canadian cheese was never to my liking and was also super expensive. 

I used to shop a lot at Winco in Bellingham for things like cheese, avocados and other bulk buy products that we were allowed to bring across the border but the exchange rate isn’t in our favour these days. 

I don’t necessarily try to eat cheaply but also don’t try to eat expensive food. I buy what I want and it doesn’t seem to be too unhealthy and doesn’t seem to be too much. I eat a lot at work as well as we have a staff restaurant. 

While I will need to cook more when I stop working, I don’t imagine it costing me much more, as I’ve discovered a lot of foods lately that I never used to eat before that I’ve learnt are healthy but they are also cheap. I also love cooking so I am happy to cook in bulk as well. 

If anything, even with the current rise in inflation, I have found that since cutting back on chips/cheese/breads and eating more beans/oats/chickpeas and also buying fruits in bulk and freezing them that my costs have gone down! For 2023 they have already gone down significantly compared with previous years.

Related reading: Learn how Chrissy’s family saves big on groceries and how they purchase groceries for 50–70% off with Flashfood.

Eating out ($138/month; $1,656/year) 🇨🇦

I love to cook and I’ve been to all the restaurants in Whistler too many times, so I eat out less than I used to. But I generally don’t make sushi, or french fries or a few other things. So sometimes I eat out for those types of items. 

However, I love to socialise, which means I go to a bar and chat to people, listening to music and mingling. It doesn’t necessarily mean eating out. But if I have a beer with food, I’ll divide those into separate costs with the beer going under drinking out and the food under eating out, even if it’s on the same check.

I am quite happy to eat meat when out. As I said, I don’t label myself vegetarian or vegan but have just cut back. I absolutely love Thai food and can’t get that in Whistler. Depending where I go when I travel, I may or may not eat out. 

For example, in Spain, I love tapas, but am also super happy getting some bread and meats and cheeses for a picnic. In Thailand where I just spent a month, I ate out like three times a day. My total costs for this over a month was $250. The food is incredible. It was my 8th time in Thailand and I think I will always go back there for visits. 

Eating out in Canada and the US is a lot more expensive than most other places. I don’t care for fine dining even if it’s free. I do love to cook myself, so generally eating out I can take or leave.

4. How much do utilities and bills cost in Whistler?

For the group house, I control all bills and include it in the housemates’ rent. This includes the gas, electricity, internet, gas for bbq, snow plough, and all cleaning supplies. This averages to $100 per month and at the end of the winter (May 1st) I give any remainder back from this fund to myself and my housemates.

utilities jason richard unsplash
Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Natural gas ($5/month; $60/year) 🇨🇦

We have a gas fireplace. This averages $12 in summer to $80 in winter per month. Split between 8 people.

Electricity ($45/month; $540/year) 🇨🇦

The heating is running off electricity. So this goes up a lot in winter. We don’t try to skimp and save on this in winter as we don’t want dampness and mould affecting the house. In summer, this averages around $300 for two months, up to a maximum of $1,200 for the Dec/Jan period. Again, split between 8 people.

Water ($0) 🇨🇦

Never had to pay for water. I am curious is this something people pay for in Canada or does it come under another charge? In Ireland, they tried to bring in fees, but as far as I know there were loads of protests and the fees were taken away.

Garbage and recycling ($0) 🇨🇦

Due to bears, there is no official garbage pickup in Whistler. We do it ourselves and it’s free. We get money from recycling.

Internet ($11/month; $126/year) 🇨🇦

The Internet varies depending on the most recent deals we have. We have the maximum unlimited fastest internet we get, so it’s $80 per month at the moment. Again, split between 8 people.

Home phone ($0) 🇨🇦

No home phone.

Cell phones ($56/month; $672/year) 🇨🇦

I am with FIDO, I keep getting deals with them and have 30 GB for $50. When I go to Ireland I’ve had the same prepaid number since 1999. I usually top up with either 10 EUR or 20 EUR depending on the deal. That gives me unlimited data within Ireland and 9 GB within the EU. 

Most other countries, I buy a SIM card. I recently went to Washington for a few days and it’s not as convenient to get a sim card for a few days there. So I discovered E-sims with Airalo. (My referral code is STEPHE3662.) 

I was only there for a few days so I got 1GB of data for $4.50 USD, but by using someone else’s referral code I got $3 off, so really only spent $1.50 USD for the 4 days. However, if I had used my FIDO roaming plan, this would have been $12 CAD per day. This is absurd for roaming in my opinion. 

I will be using these eSIMs a lot in the future, especially for the first day or so when I land in a country. There are all sorts of packages and different data you can buy for super affordable prices.

Streaming entertainment and cable TV ($24/month; $288/year) 🇨🇦

I have Spotify which I spend $11.19 per month on. I watch a lot of YouTube videos. I use my sister’s Netflix but rarely watch it. So if Ireland brings in the same password sharing rules that Canada currently has, I just don’t really need it. 

5. How much do other essentials cost in Whistler?

clothing polina tankilevitch
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Life and disability insurance ($0) 🇨🇦

I don’t have any insurance for this.

Medical insurance ($216/month; $2,592/year) 🇨🇦

I have insurance for Irish people who live abroad. This covers all sorts of stuff from travel to long term illness, etc. It’s worldwide except for the US. But it still covers me in the US for up to two months. The issue is I’ve no real benefit from this anymore as BC healthcare and my insurance through work has always covered me. 

It used to be $1,000 per year but has gone up significantly over the years and is now around $2,400 depending on the exchange rate (I pay in EUROS). I was about to cancel it in March 2020 and then COVID happened and I decided to keep it a bit more. 

Before I was Canadian and had some accidents abroad it was really good to me, as it was to other people I know that broke bones in ski accidents and stuff. Due to being covered by healthcare in Canada and Europe (I have a European health card) and Ireland also has mutual agreements with Australia for health care, I’m tempted to cancel this and just get regular travel insurance when I travel. 

With regards to BC healthcare, I’m covered and then my work insurance covers more stuff such as dental/physio/eyesight/therapy/RMT and a wide range of stuff. While dental is expensive, if it’s out of pocket, physio and eyesight are pretty cheap and I won’t pay much for those when I finish work. There are also options to use dentists in other countries when I travel and it’s much cheaper.

Out-of-pocket medical expenses ($30/month; $360/year) 🇨🇦

This is pretty much negligible. Prescription medicine is covered by my work’s healthcare package. But even when I don’t work anymore, this doesn’t add up to much. 2022 had quite a few out-of-pocket medical expenses as I kept getting COVID. 

I got it four times and eventually needed an inhaler. I also got a bunch of vaccines for travel which will last some for life and some for 5 to 10 years. A lot of these were paid by my benefits but there were dispensing fees and charges for non-prescription medication to help with dealing with COVID.

Clothing and footwear ($128/month; $1,536/year) 🇨🇦

When I lived in Ireland, I used to buy all my clothes in the US as it was so cheap. And sometimes in Thailand. Nowadays with exchange rates, Canada is pretty cheap for clothes. I would be happiest just walking around in a pair of shorts. 

I don’t care to dress up in fancy brands, but jeans, a T-shirt and a warm hoodie do me fine. Living in a ski town, even ski clothes can be got on a budget. I hate shopping, so when I do it, it might be once every few years and I just buy everything in bulk at once. Like for example, Old Navy or H&M can do me fine for a bunch of T-shirts. Board shorts I can find a bunch on Amazon or Sport Chek. 

Sport Chek is actually pretty cheap for snowboard gear as well. I know some people want to spend a fortune for Gortex gear. But I’ve pretty good snowboard gear that costs me $100s less and is just as waterproof. And if it’s lashing rain I don’t really care to go snowboarding. 

I realize snowboard gear isn’t a necessity for most people while clothes are, but we actually wear our snowboard gear very very often more often than a lot of my shoes or clothes ha ha!!

I go hiking all the time, and I’ve done hikes in the Himalayas and Patagonia and never needed expensive gear for this either. The boots I used in Himalayas cost me $80 at Sport Chek in 2016 and I still have them.

Personal care ($0—included in groceries) 🇨🇦

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

I have kept track of all these under groceries so don’t have a different cost for them. But all I really need is soap, shower gel, toothpaste, toothbrush and deodorant. I actually find you can’t get roll-on deodorant in North America, so I buy this in Ireland and it probably costs me 15 EUR per year. I get all the other products at Dollarama. 

I have short hair, and never really needed expensive brands. I cut my own hair. I did this even in Uni. I hate wasting time making an appointment to go to a hairdresser. I stock up on toilet paper when it’s cheap at Independent but also got a Tushy which is becoming super popular these days. A bunch of people I know got them. It’s way more hygienic and saves on paper and keeps you cleaner. 

I just have a hair trimmer for cutting my hair that you can get for $30 to $40. Fun fact, I’ve broken my arms/collar bone etc a few times from snowboarding. Usually when cutting my hair I need one hand to hold up a mirror and the other for the shaver. But when I had injuries I managed to do it all one-handed just by using the sounds of the different blade lengths.

Related: Learn how much Chrissy’s family saves by DIYing their haircuts

Technology ($75/month; $900/year) 🇨🇦

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 have a phone, laptop, GoPro, e-reader. Usually every four years or so I would get a new phone or laptop. One trick I did a few years ago would be to buy a new phone off a Canadian seller that’s listed on American eBay. 

This means it was shipped within Canada, eliminating customs taxes, but it also meant eliminating the taxes that Canadian eBay charges. Usually it was just an opened box or something that made it a lot cheaper but was a brand new phone. 

Sometimes I would buy something in Oregon as it’s tax free for products there. But obviously that all depends on the exchange rate. These days Canada is cheaper. In the most recent Black Friday deals there were epic deals to get a phone with certain carriers. This has certainly changed as in the past it was cheaper to buy it separate to the carrier but people didn’t realise this. My laptop is fast and usually lasts a number of years as well.

I pay for Google One for storage so I don’t need portable hard-drives. I pay for Spotify. But otherwise don’t have any other technology costs.

Part 3: Adding it all up

Now that we’ve detailed all of Stephen’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 Whistler?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Property tax$0$0
Strata/HOA fees
Home insurance$0$0

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Vehicle loan$0$0
Vehicle insurance$78$936
Vehicle maintenance$69$828
Bike maintenance$0$0
Parking and tolls$0$0

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Eating out$138$1,656

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Natural gas$5$60
Garbage and recycling$0$0
Home phone$0$0
Cell phones$56$672
Streaming entertainment and cable TV$24$288

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Life and disability insurance$0$0
Medical insurance$216$2,592
Out-of-pocket medical expenses$30$360
Clothing and footwear$128$1,536
Personal care$0$0

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Utilities and bills$141$1,686
Other essentials$449$5,388

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 Stephen wanted to share: 


One of my biggest expenses is socialising. I love to hang out with people so I spend quite a lot of money in bars. I do keep my cost of drinking in bars separate from my cost of drinking at home. When I was younger we definitely had more pre-drinks before going out but now I spend more in bars. 

In 2022, I spent $4,912.63 drinking socially, or drinking in bars. The average over the last decade is $4,500, with 2020 being the lowest at $2,272.97, and the max was $6,322 in 2017. I expect this year to be a lot lower than the average as the prices have gone up so much I can’t justify it, plus there’s so many other things I want to do at the moment that don’t involve going to bars! Lately I’ve been going out a lot and having the Corona 0.0% beers which are delicious.

A lot of people might be appalled at these costs on alcohol as it can certainly be eliminated. I enjoy friends and company. I am single, so I want to meet people. It’s also a ski town so costs are quite expensive. However, we do know a lot of bartenders and get a lot of local deals and happy hours that regular tourists may not get or may not know about. 

For example, during COVID, me and my housemates decided to do a fancy 7-course dinner with drink and wine pairings. This was at the start when everyone was annoyed with being locked up and we were all having a grand old time still playing by the rules. The total cost of this was $20 per person and it was quite a luxurious meal.

Skiing and snowboarding

While not a necessity for most people, a ski pass is more like a gym membership for us in Whistler. It’s something we all get. My ski pass is just over $1,000 per year depending on the exchange rate. (It’s sold in USD.) Buying it in USD also eliminates the Canadian taxes and makes it cheaper. 

Snowboarding can be social. It’s not just about skiing/boarding. I can go up the mountain for picnics, go for a drink, a chat with friends, a date, go for one run just to open my mind, read a book, or listen to a podcast. It also offers free skiing all over the world in a number of resorts and includes the gondola for summer hiking as well. This is highly worth it, in my opinion.  


I love to travel. This is a main part of my life. While it might be an optional expenditure for some people, part of it is a necessity for me, especially flights to Ireland to visit family. I’ve always been really good at finding the best deals though, and due to not having a Monday to Friday, it works out cheaper for me to fly at off-peak times. 

You may or may not be interested in this but just a little about travel costs as I can use this to predict my future year coming. I’ll give you a few examples of my own here:

  • I just booked a bunch of flights for this year, Vancouver to Dublin, then Dublin to Halifax for a wedding, then Halifax to Madrid for a few days and then on to Morocco. Total cost of this was $1,100. That’s three transatlantic trips and really convenient days and times. I was well pleased with this. 
  • Over the years, my return flights to Ireland have generally cost $640 to $740.
  • From June 2010 to mid-April 2011 (10.5 months) I travelled from San Diego, California to Ushuaia, Argentina on buses. I did everything I wanted along the way, saw so much, did hikes and stayed in hostels and ate good food. The total cost at the time was $12,836 USD or 9,920 EUR. (Those were the currencies I was using at the time, so it wasn’t listed in CAD.) 
  • After that, I went and worked in Norway for a year, Norway at the time was the most expensive place in the world. I did a lot there. Included ski pass and partying and trips to Sweden/other parts of Norway and Ireland. I also lived right in the city centre where I could walk or bike everywhere. In that period from May 2011 to April 2012, I spent a total of 16,583 EUR or 128,253 NOK. 
  • I had landed in Norway with 600 EUR left to my name, and left with the equivalent of 22,079 EUR or $28,607 USD. (Sorry for the changes in currency, it’s just as I was travelling I was using a number of different currencies and exchange rates fluctuated.)
  • Obviously, that’s a long time ago and COVID has changed things all over the world. I was very skeptical I could still travel that cheap. Well, I just went to Thailand for a month in Oct/Nov 2022. For one whole month, I spent a total of $1,492 CAD, not including the flights. 
  • This broke down to $282 total on accommodation, $264 on eating out, $235 on drinking out, $300 on taxi/bus/transport, $262 on activities and tours, $60 on supermarket food, and $35 on supermarket drinks.
  • I also go on lots of road trips and camping trips that also really don’t add up to much. I might buy a bunch of food for the group and cook a bunch of big group meals. 

Overall spending

Just to give you an example of my actual costs including everything I spend overall: with a few major costs in 2022, but also a lot more travel and luxury travel planned for 2023, I expect my costs to run around $30,000 to $32,000 this year.

Here are my full annual costs since 2013, down to the cent:

  • 2013: $18,954.77
  • 2014: $26,932.81
  • 2015: $30,637.46
  • 2016: $28,578.37
  • 2017: $47,097.43
  • 2018: $35,694.48
  • 2019: $30,261.64
  • 2020: $24,240.01
  • 2021: $29,858.22
  • 2022: $34,456.50

Chrissy’s takeaways

Thank you so much to Stephen for sharing his expenses. I loved all the details he provided (he gets an A+ for his thoroughness)! There are so many takeaways I’d love to highlight from Stephen’s interview, but here are my top three:

There are many paths to FI

Even by FIRE community standards, Stephen has lived an unconventional life. To start with, he left a potentially high-paying career to travel the world and work mostly minimum-wage jobs. As he shared, “I once calculated that in a seven-year period from when I finished Uni, I worked a total of one year and seven months out of seven years.” 

How amazing is that?! Even now in his 30s, Stephen continues to live unconventionally. He shares a house with seven other roommates, travels several months each year, and works in the (typically low-paying) service industry. 

He also lives in a very high-cost area, and spent much of his twenties paying little attention to his finances and investing. And yet, Stephen will still reach FI before his 40th birthday. His story shows that there are, indeed, many paths to FI.

Optimization is a FI superpower

Something that stands out to me in Stephen’s interview is how deftly he optimizes all areas of his life. (So much so, it seems to be second-nature to him—he really does give Mr. Money Mustache a run for his money!) 

This optimization superpower is a huge part of Stephen’s success. It’s what’s allowed him to live an extraordinary life in an expensive area—without a conventional, high-paying job. However, another secret to Stephen’s success is he doesn’t just optimize to save money. He also optimizes for happiness and enjoyment.

In doing so, Stephen sidesteps deprivation and lives a better, more fulfilled life. As a fellow optimizer, I applaud Stephen for his efforts and encourage all of you to consider new ways to optimize your life. (If you need extra motivation, read this classic MMM post—it’s one of my faves!)

Co-living for the win (again)

I’ve seen time and again in this interview series how beneficial co-living can be. It’s an incredible way to slash your housing costs as well as a host of other expenses. In Stephen’s case, he’s able to split many of his bills eight ways! No matter how you cut it, sharing expenses with that many people results in very low costs.

But saving on expenses isn’t the only benefit to co-living. For Stephen, it also provides him with a built-in community. He’s very social and enjoys having others around—sharing a house with roommates is a huge non-monetary benefit for him. 

As an introvert, I’m not sure how well I’d do with that many housemates, ha ha. But I think it’s amazing that Stephen thrives in an environment like this and makes it work for himself and his roommates. 👍

Chrissy’s closing thoughts

I always love doing interviews with ‘regular’ people who are non-bloggers. It helps to show the diversity of people and experiences out there in the FI community. (And it also proves to FIRE critics that we’re not all bloggers who are only FI because of our blogs. 🙄)

Stephen’s story is extra-engaging because of his unconventionality and his plucky, can-do approach to everything. (I also very much enjoyed taking a peek into the life of a Whistlerite—I’ve always wondered what it’s like to live and work there!)

Stephen, thank you again for doing such a marvellous job with your interview. I loved reading every last detail, and am so excited to share it with my readers! Also, huge congratulations to you on (very shortly) reaching FI in your thirties—all while living such an incredible life. Well done! 👏

Connect with Stephen

If you’d like to connect with Stephen, you can find him on his YouTube channel or on Instagram

Share your thoughts

Were you surprised by Stephen’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!

David lives in the moderately-expensive city of Austin, Texas, yet manages to keeps his expenses low. Find out how he does it (despite NEVER cooking)!

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
    March 19, 2023 at 7:07 pm

    That is amazing! I never thought one can live in Whistler on around $30K. Stephen’s approach is brilliant. This debunks the myth that only high income earners can reach FI, although Stephen is more than capable of earning much more. Being in IT myself, I can definitely relate with the reasons why he decided to forego the 9 to 5.

    Stephen’s story is a perfect example of someone choosing Happiness over Wealth. Also, it shows that the two can be mutually exclusive. At the end of the day, Stephen can consider himself wealthier than most people who own the chalets in Whistler. How many of the wealthy residents of Whistler can honestly say they don’t need to trade 99% of their time?

    Brilliant! Amazing job with the interview Chrissy!

    • Reply
      March 19, 2023 at 10:23 pm

      Hi Chris—I agree with everything in your comment, especially the part about Stephen “choosing Happiness over Wealth”. Too many people have this reversed, and don’t realize it until it’s too late. Stephen is truly free, unlike (as you say) most of the people who own pricey Whistler chalets!

      He lives an enviable life and smashes so many of the myths about wealth, FI, career aspirations, happiness, etc. etc. Imagine if more people had an outlook on life like Stephen’s (and had the courage to live outside of the ‘norms’, as he does)? We’d have a very different world, that’s for sure!

      I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Stephen’s interview as much as I did. He put in a lot of time and did such a good job with it!

      • Chris
        March 19, 2023 at 10:54 pm

        Without meeting Stephen in person, I can safely assume that he lives every single day intentionally.

        I definitely agree that we need more “Stephens” in this world. If society in general learns to decouple their happiness and sense of self worth from worldly possessions, job titles and status, we can avert wars, poverty and other manmade disasters.

        Kudos to all the Stephens and Chrissys of the world!

      • Chrissy
        March 19, 2023 at 11:10 pm

        Hi Chris—kudos to you as well! You’ve also chosen a path that’s very different from your peers, and are even teaching others how to join you on the path to FI. As we all continue to share our stories, I hope we inspire more people to change their lives for the better (and in turn, start a positive ripple effect out into the world).

  • Reply
    April 3, 2023 at 12:13 pm

    What an amazing way Stephen lives – to be able to travel so much and live so well without deprivation! I also love Airalo for E-sims so here is my plug for anyone to use Stephen’s referral code because I am on a World Cruise to so many countries and it has been such a bonus not to have to pay Rogers $15/day for data to use Google Maps. It is so convenient and inexpensive!

    • Reply
      April 5, 2023 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Mom—Stephen is pretty amazing! He’s doing a lot of things right. 👍

      I’ve yet to hear anything bad about Airalo, and am thrilled that you’ve been able to use it as much as you have. It sounds like a fantastic service.

  • Reply
    May 19, 2023 at 7:00 pm

    Give his qualifications, he might consider some free-lance digital work, ie. set up ecommerce sites for small biz. He is healthy and does track his expenses closely. He has to stay healthy and that is one area that one should budget every year. I am healthy myself and I bike, don’t own a car. And have lived this way for past 30 yrs. in major Canadian cities. If he wasn’t working, he needs to plan for the extra health care expenses. I am not sure I would want to share a house with a bunch of people who weren’t my family and deal with different habits. There is a point, I would feel tired….and I grew up with 5 sibliings so I am accustomed living with many people.

    • Reply
      May 25, 2023 at 10:14 pm

      Hi Jean—thanks for dropping by to read and comment! Sorry for the delay in my response. It’s been tough finding time to blog lately!

      You’re right that Stephen has the right skills to take on freelance digital work. He’s got lots of options! You’re also right that staying healthy and planning for the extra costs are important. I feel that living a healthy lifestyle (like you do) is not only good for you, but could also save a lot of money by preventing serious or chronic illness.

      Stephen certainly has a superpower in that he not only tolerates, but embraces living with others! It’s benefited him a lot to be able to share his housing costs with so many roommates. I agree that it’s not easy!

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