FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

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

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

Photo by Jonathon Oliviera on Unsplash

How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life?

Hello, and welcome to interview #2 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.

Interview #2: Another Loonie near Vancouver

In today’s interview, we’ll meet AL from the blog Another Loonie. He lives the FIRE life in a suburb near Vancouver, BC with his wife. On his blog, AL writes about “some very saucy private information“: saving, investing, net worth updates, and more.

Another Loonie is still a new blog, but it’s quickly filling up with helpful, well-written content. I also appreciate the clean, simple design aesthetic of the blog. (As a picky graphic designer, this is really important to me!)

If you haven’t visited AL’s blog yet, be sure to do so… but not before you read his interview below!

About the interview series

I’ve created an intro page for this interview series to help to 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)

Part 1: Getting to know you

Tell us about you and your wife

I’m a married, recent homeowner in beautiful British Columbia. My wife and I are both 29 years old. We currently have no dependents but are looking to build a family in the coming years. My favourite pastimes include entertaining family and friends, gardening, and the various projects I have going around the house!

My main hobby is learning and writing about personal finance. Last year I started my blog, Another Loonie, to share my financial journey and connect with like-minded Canadians.

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

I would say that my wife and I are solidly on the path towards FIRE. We’ve always been somewhat frugal people and currently maintain an average savings rate of 45%. Based on our savings rate, I estimate that we can comfortably retire in 19 years.

As DIY investors, we focus on low-cost, dividend-paying ETFs to help us build our nest egg for early retirement. I share all of our financial journey candidly on our blog. Each month I post a new net worth update and detail how much we’re earning, saving, and investing. Our progress over the past year has been exceptional, and we’ve started 2021 with a combined net worth of $350k.

What type of FIRE are you aiming for? (FIRE, Lean FIRE, or Fat FIRE*)

*See the box below for Chrissy’s definitions for these FIRE categories.

My wife and I are aiming to be FI-lexible. Our short to medium-term plan is to take advantage of the progress we’ve made towards FIRE to work less once children enter the picture—at least for those first few years. 

Our retirement goals are more in line with standard FIRE than Lean or Fat FIRE. In retirement, we’d like to have enough money to live comfortably and to also have a buffer for whatever life throws at us. 

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.

I wholeheartedly disagree with this! After all, $100k could be Fat FIRE in a small Canadian town but Lean FIRE in San Francisco. Instead, I define each category more loosely:

  • 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.

Tell us about your living situation

After many years of renting, my wife and I bought our home in 2019. We live in a detached house in a suburb of Vancouver. Although we live in a high-cost-of-living area, it’s much cheaper than living in Vancouver proper. 

Our home is average for our area, at around 2,000 square feet of living space. Since we’re used to living in an apartment, we find our home to be much larger than we currently need.

Living in the suburbs, we find it necessary to own a car and rarely walk to any of the ‘nearby’ stores in our area. However, public transit is accessible, and we often relied on it before COVID.

Why did you choose to live in your city (a suburb near Vancouver)?

The primary reason we chose to live in our city is that our family is here. We enjoy being just a short drive away from them and anticipate relying on them once we have children. 

Another reason we chose our city is that it’s less expensive than Vancouver. Here, we can afford a detached house, whereas we would have to stretch just to afford a nice townhouse in Vancouver. We’ve always valued owning land over owning a piece of a condo tower or townhouse complex, so we prioritized owning a detached home.

Part 2: The expenses

In this section, AL 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 detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) as well as why I decided not to convert my interviewees’ expenses to CAD or USD, see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

1. Housing

Photo by Bonyamin Mellish on Pexels

Mortgage ($2,717/month; $32,604/year)

We pay a little over $2,700 per month towards our mortgage. We bought our home with 20% down, and with rates as low as they are, we have no intention of paying it off early. Putting 20% down allowed us to avoid CMHC insurance and take advantage of a 30-year amortization. 

Property tax ($248/month; $2,979/year)

Property tax in our municipality is quite affordable. When I account for grants, our property tax bill came to $2,979 for the year. 

Strata/HOA fees ($0)

We are not a member of a strata or HOA. 

Home insurance ($86/month; $1,026/year)

Our home insurance covers a whole plethora of crises, including water damage, fire, and earthquakes. We pay $86 per month for this coverage and only found such a good deal after shopping around extensively. We were quoted as high as $200 per month for the same coverage, so it pays to shop around!

Home maintenance ($274/month; $3,288/year)

Note: this category includes home maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and improvements; household goods and supplies; furniture, appliances, computers and mobile devices.

We spend $142 per month on home maintenance. Some months we spend zero, and other months we spend hundreds. It’s not that things are necessarily breaking. It’s just that our home didn’t come in mint condition, so there are various small projects I’ve undertaken to improve it. Some examples include patching drywall, painting, fixing broken appliances, and other small tasks. 

On average, we spend $133 on home items. This includes furniture, appliances, kitchenware, decorations, and other items. Our spending in this category is much less than I anticipated when we first bought our home. We had planned to spend a lot more on furniture last year, but that was made more difficult when COVID struck. 

2. Transportation

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

Vehicle insurance ($172/month; $2,059/year)

We have collision insurance through ICBC and comprehensive insurance through BCCA. In total, we spend $172 per month on our coverage, which includes roadside assistance—and yes, I’ve used it!

Gas ($215/month; $2,580/year)

Before COVID, we typically spent $215 per month on gas. Currently, we spend $54 per month. This huge reduction is because both of our jobs have transitioned to working from home. And since we can no longer easily visit friends or family, we find ourselves driving much, much less than before. 

Once COVID blows over, I expect our gas spending to return to our norm of $215 per month.

Vehicle maintenance ($20/month; $240/year)

Car maintenance is nonexistent these days. On average, we’re spending $20 per month. This is mainly for oil and filter changes, which I enjoy doing myself. Over time, we’ve been able to save a significant amount of money on car maintenance as I’ve become more experienced and acquired more tools. 

Bike maintenance ($0)

Parking and tolls ($10/month; $120/year)

Before COVID, this cost us around $10 per month. It’s currently $0 because we haven’t visited downtown Vancouver since COVID started.

Transit ($177/month; $2,124/year)

Before COVID, my wife spent $177 per month to commute to her office. We’re working from home now, so we currently spend $0 per month on public transit. I’m not looking forward to seeing this expense reappear in our budget in the not-too-distant future. 

3. Food

Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Groceries ($251/month; $3,012/year)

Our grocery bill varies, but the average over the past 12 months has been $251. My wife does all of our grocery shopping and saves us money by buying in bulk, shopping sales, and being strategic when meal planning. 

Recently we’ve started having our groceries delivered, which is a service that many grocers have started to offer. We started using it this summer and haven’t looked back. It’s so much easier to shop for groceries online, and it saves time otherwise spent travelling to the store and browsing to find what you need. 

Eating out ($185/month; $2,220/year)

Before COVID, we would regularly spend $185 or more on eating out every month. Most of this would be spent with friends or family, often at happy hour and always with a glass of beer or wine in hand. 

These days, this budget item comes in at $143. We try to get a nice take-out meal from a local restaurant at least once a month. Other times we’re simply grabbing a treat from a nearby fast-food restaurant. 

I expect our eating out expenses to return to $185 per month once COVID is over.

4. Utilities and bills

Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Natural gas ($51/month; $612/year)

Our home has forced air natural gas heating, and although our furnace is old, it’s still an affordable way to heat your home. We spend $51 per month on this budget item, with the most expensive months being January and February, when we spend closer to $100. 

Our home also has a natural gas water heater, which we find consumes a decent percentage of our monthly natural gas bill. We’re constantly using hot water for washing dishes and bathing. To save some money on our monthly bill, we recently switched to cold water laundry detergent. 

Electricity ($51/month; $612/year)

Our average electricity bill is $102 every two months. Our most expensive bill comes in February as we tend to use our bedroom’s baseboard heating at night when it’s cold. 

When moving into our home, I predicted we would need air conditioning in the summer, as the previous owner had two window-mount units installed. I found that by keeping our blinds closed and opening the windows on the north side of our house, we could keep the temperature inside relatively cool—even on the hottest days. By avoiding air conditioning, we’re able to keep our electricity bill low all summer. 

Water, sewer, garbage and recycling ($29/month; $342/year)

Water and garbage services are provided by our municipality. Our home is water metered, so instead of paying a standard rate, we only pay for what we use. On average, this comes out to $29 per month. 

We use a few strategies to avoid using too much water, including taking shorter showers and not overwatering our lawn and garden.

Internet ($50/month; $605/year)

We pride ourselves on paying as little as possible for internet services. Unfortunately, in our area, we only have a few providers to choose from. We settled on a plan with Telus, which offered $45 per month for 25 Mbps down and 25 Mbps up.

Home phone ($0)

We haven’t found it necessary to have a home phone, so we pay $0 for this service.

Cell phones ($78/month; $936/year)

My wife uses Virgin Mobile and pays $50 per month for a plan that included credit towards a new phone. I went with a BYOD phone with Public Mobile for $25 per month. Both of our plans come with all the regular features, plus unlimited Canada-wide minutes and 1 GB of data.

Streaming entertainment ($7/month; $84/year)

We average $7 per month on streaming services. Most of that is Netflix and Crave. We regularly cancel services as we finish watching the series we’re interested in. At the moment, we have Crave, and we expect to keep it for the next few months.

The majority of our streaming entertainment comes from YouTube, which we pay no monthly fee for.

5. Other essentials

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Life and disability insurance ($0)

Both of our workplaces provide us with a small amount of life and disability insurance. For the time being, we haven’t invested the time into picking up additional insurance. Once we have dependents, we will start paying for life insurance policies and possibly also disability insurance.

Medical insurance ($0)

Both my wife and I have supplementary medical insurance with our employers. These policies cover prescriptions, dental, vision, physio and various other medical services. 

My policy also covers some niche services like acupuncture and massage therapy up to a reasonable annual limit. My goal for 2020 was to use up all of my massage therapy dollars, but I bet you can expect how that goal turned out!

Out-of-pocket medical expenses ($0)

We’ve been fortunate to not have to pay for any out-of-pocket medical expenses over the past year. We find that our supplementary medical insurance with our employers tends to cover the vast majority of medical costs not covered by the Canadian health care system.

Clothing and footwear ($41/month; $492/year)

We spend $41 in an average month on clothing and footwear. My wife likes higher quality clothes but saves money by “shopping” on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. I’m always amazed by what she can find, as she regularly gets 60% to 70% off lightly used items from Aritzia and other popular stores.

My clothing needs are a little less demanding, and so I barely spend any money on clothes. I receive most of my clothes as gifts on Christmas or my birthday, so the amount I spend monthly on clothes ends up being small if anything at all. 

Part 3: Adding it all up

Now that we’ve detailed all of AL’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 detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) as well as why I decided not to convert my interviewees’ expenses to CAD or USD, 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 a suburb near Vancouver?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Mortgage$2,717$32,604
Property tax$248$2,979
Strata/HOA fees
$0$0
Home insurance$86$1,026
Maintenance$274$3,288
TOTAL$3,325 (with mortgage)
$608 (no mortgage)
$39,897 (with mortgage)
$7,293 (no mortgage)

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Vehicle insurance$172$2,059
Gas$215$2,580
Vehicle maintenance$20$240
Bike maintenance$0$0
Parking and tolls$10$120
Transit$177$2,124
TOTAL$594$7,123

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Groceries$251$3,012
Eating out$185$2,220
TOTAL$436$5,232

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Natural gas$51$612
Electricity$51$612
Water and waste$29$342
Internet$50$605
Home phone$0$0
Cell phones$78$936
Streaming entertainment$7$84
TOTAL$266$3,191

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Life and disability insurance$0$0
Medical insurance$0$0
Out-of-pocket medical expenses$0$0
Clothing and footwear$41$492
TOTAL$41$492

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Housing$3,325 (with mortgage)
$608 (no mortgage)
$39,897 (with mortgage)
$7,293 (no mortgage)
Transportation$594$7,123
Food$436$5,232
Utilities and bills$266$3,191
Other essentials$41$492
TOTAL$4,661 (with mortgage)
$1,944 (no mortgage)
$55,935 (with mortgage)
$23,331 (no mortgage)

Important notes about the numbers (one more time)

  • 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 detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) as well as why I decided not to convert my interviewees’ expenses to CAD or USD, see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

Part 4: Other expenses

This is a special section that’s just for fun! It’s the place for my interviewees to mention any expenses that they’ve done a really good job of optimizing and/or just want to share. 

These expenses won’t be included in the totals (just to keep things as standardized as possible). I hope you find this section interesting and informative! 

Here are a couple that AL wanted to share:

Gifts

A significant expense for us not accounted for here is gifts. We both have large families, and so someone is having a birthday almost every month. If we include gifts for each other, we spend on average $394 per month on gifts in one form or another. This includes birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and etc. These special occasions really add up!

Car payment

Another significant expense for us is our car payment. I bought a new car 6 years ago and am still paying it off. The monthly payment is $260 a month, which isn’t especially large, but it makes a difference regardless. In my defence, the loan’s interest rate is 1% annually, and the car is still running great!

Chrissy’s closing thoughts

Many thanks to AL for taking the time to share his essential expenses and money-saving tips! I’m so impressed with his incredibly low spending—WOW. It just goes to show how thoughtful optimization can go a very long way, even in a high-cost-of-living area.

Notable for me is AL’s grocery spending. Even though they’re only two people, $251 per month for groceries is still very low. (AL—I think a post about this on Another Loonie is in order!) Clearly, AL and his wife know how to optimize their essentials. 

I’m also surprised by how low his property tax bill is. I think it was a very wise financial decision to live further out for the lower purchase prices and lower taxes. This single decision easily shaved years off of AL’s journey to FIRE!

Congrats on all your financial success, AL! I look forward to continuing to follow your financial journey on your blog.

Note: Special thanks to AL for being one of the first guinea pigs interviewees for this series! He patiently humoured me as I worked through some of the initial glitches. Thanks again, AL! 🙏

Connect with AL

I hope you found AL’s interview inspiring (I know I did). For more of his content, be sure to visit him on his blog, Another Loonie, or connect with him on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Share your thoughts

And now it’s time for you to leave us a comment! Were you surprised by AL’s essential expenses? Are any of them significantly different from where you live? Share your thoughts below, along with any of 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.

The inaugural interview in the series, with none other than… me! I share all our essential expenses and my family’s best money-saving tips (there are plenty)!

Steve and his wife live the expat life in Taipei, Taiwan—one of Asia’s most expensive cities. Read his interview to find out if it’s possible to live frugally in a high-cost Asian metropolis!

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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34 Comments

  • Reply
    AnotherLoonie
    February 10, 2021 at 10:12 am

    I had such a good time participating in this interview. Thanks for having me, Chrissy!

    I feel like my situation is a good representation of what many millennial homeowners experience: being frugal to get into the market and then spending most of their money on housing. Close to 70% of my spending is allocated to housing! Crazy!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 10, 2021 at 8:38 pm

      Hi AL—you were a wonderful guest. I really do appreciate your patience as I worked out the kinks in the interview process!

      Millennials have certainly had an uphill battle when it comes to home ownership. It’s nearly impossible to get into the market without a frugal FI mindset.

      However, even though you spend a disproportionate amount of your spending on housing, it still sounds to me like you’re living a very nice life.

      You work and save hard, but you’re also enjoying things as you go. Well done! 👍

  • Reply
    The Economist
    February 10, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    Chrissy, love the start to this series. I think it would be useful to help compare true housing costs across different homeownership stages (just bought, bought 10 years ago) and different housing choices (owner, rent, van) if you included the opportunity cost of equity in the home. Easy to do if you pick a standard assumption.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 10, 2021 at 8:49 pm

      Hey Economist—wow, thanks for reading and commenting! I love your idea, and totally want to implement this. But you know I’m a right-brained graphic designer, right? This goes FAR beyond my very limited mathematical capabilities, ha ha. However, if you can find a way to explain it to me like I’m five… I’m all ears! 😆

      • The Economist
        February 11, 2021 at 11:16 am

        Sure – I think a simple way to put a value to this would be to ask for a conservative value of your (home owning) interviewee’s equity in their home and multiply it by a conservative rate of return, I’d use 5 percent, but you could use a value as low as what you could get in a high-interest savings account.

      • Chrissy
        February 11, 2021 at 4:41 pm

        Hi Economist—that’s brilliantly simple! I like it and will figure out a way to implement it. What are your thoughts on AL’s question about price appreciation? I know it’s generally true that RE appreciation is the same as inflation, but that’s not been the case in the Vancouver area (and other HCOL cities) for a long time. How would we reconcile that?

    • Reply
      AnotherLoonie
      February 11, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      That’s a cool idea! I think that would add about $750 per month to my cost of shelter. Would price appreciation also come into play in this comparison? Even just a 2 or 3% increase would skew things quite a lot – especially for a new homeowner like me who’s leveraged 5x or more.

      • The Economist
        February 13, 2021 at 3:02 pm

        Dealing with price appreciation is reasonable, but not in-line with simple, haha.

        It also depends on the individual – it would be more important to allow for price inflation for someone who is living in a city short-term or going to geo-arbitrage in the future, but if the plan is to stay in one place for the medium or long term, then it is less relevant since the potential gains are not likely to be realized.

      • Chrissy
        February 13, 2021 at 9:12 pm

        Hi Economist—I like your rationale and will leave price appreciation out of the mix (just for simplicity’s sake). I’ll ask my interviewees for their home equity and will add this to the data. Thanks for the excellent suggestion.

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    February 10, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing your numbers AL. I can’t get over how low your food bill is. We are a family of 3 and ours is more than triple your numbers. We must eat too lavishly – haha.

    Looks like you have a great plan and are well on your way to achieve FIRE.

    • Reply
      AnotherLoonie
      February 10, 2021 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks, Maria! People always notice our low food spending, and I always ask my wife how she does it. I think it comes down to finding ways to save and not eating meat every day. Some lentils or chickpeas can go a long way, and those meals are cheap, cheap, cheap!

      Now that we’re stuck at home most of the time, we’ve tried to increase our grocery budget a little and to come up with more “lavish,” fun meals to cook together on the weekend. It’s been great! And much cheaper than what we would be spending out at a restaurant.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 10, 2021 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Maria—I’m also impressed with AL’s food spending. We’re four people, so we have the advantage of buying in larger quantities. Theoretically, we should be spending less than double what AL and his wife spend.. and yet we spend more than double: $550/month. Clearly, we can all learn a thing or two from AL.

  • Reply
    Family Money Saver
    February 10, 2021 at 7:32 pm

    Great numbers, thanks for sharing your details. I can’t get over your annual utility bills! We had an electricity bill one month that was $620! I should frame that one.

    • Reply
      AnotherLoonie
      February 10, 2021 at 7:48 pm

      Wow, that’s expensive! You must have baseboard heating, right? We have baseboards too, but the bulk of our heat comes from our natural gas furnace. The carbon tax makes it a little less affordable, but it’s still way cheaper than heating with only baseboard heating. I think my inlaws electricity bill is close to yours in the winter: $400 for 2 months of service.

      • Family Money Saver
        February 10, 2021 at 8:53 pm

        Umm, we have one that we never turn on! Haha. No, I think it’s just the combination of our total usage, A/C in the summer, two extra freezers, one extra fridge… pool pump. This is why I didn’t volunteer for this series, I might be the worst influence for FIRE bloggers ever.

      • Chrissy
        February 10, 2021 at 9:08 pm

        Hi again Family Money Saver—the pool pump will do it! Our friends have a pool, and they and we are always horrified by their costs to run it! They try to get us to come over and swim in it as much as possible so that they can lower their per-use cost and feel less guilty!

        BTW, you’re silly about being a bad influence. This is all about spending according to our values. If those things are important to you, then spend on them and feel good about it!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 10, 2021 at 8:57 pm

      Hi Family Money Saver—AL also beat us on his utilities. Wow wow. $620 for one month of electricity? That’s bonkers. 😫

      To be fair, I don’t know what temps are like in your part of Canada, but it’s relatively balmy here all year round. For us, -5 is really cold and most years, it’s about as cold as it gets! I’m sure that has a huge effect on heating costs.

      • Family Money Saver
        February 10, 2021 at 10:14 pm

        Except our Heating is Gas 🙂 Another terrible bill.

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    February 11, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Nice first post in the series (aside from yours) Chrissy. Nice to see a frugal approach, and I say this because those numbers Al posted are very modest. Like me, he probably doesn’t think they are frugal but with the total I feel they are. Thats the beauty of being able to get to a place like that, you really don’t feel you are bing deprived and are actually content. Keep up the great work and yes, as someone who strives for a low grocery bill we need to see a food blog post on there Al 🙂 Keep up the great work.

    • Reply
      AnotherLoonie
      February 11, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Chris! You’re certainly right – we are content, despite being relatively frugal. It seems that once you start being frugal, it’s easy to stay frugal.

      Our experience is that we had to be frugal to save up our downpayment. Doing that for so many years only solidified our frugal mindset and habits. So much so that being frugal isn’t a chore or challenging anymore. What’s difficult for us is actually the opposite – spending!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 11, 2021 at 4:35 pm

      Hi Chris—I completely agree that AL’s numbers are amazing and yet, it doesn’t sound at all like he and his wife are deprived. I think good, ingrained habits and the right mindset play a huge role. As AL commented, once you start being frugal, it’s easy to stay frugal.

      As for asking AL to write a grocery savings post on his blog, that’s two votes from you and me (and maybe a third from Maria)! 😉

  • Reply
    Save Long and Prosper
    February 13, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Such a nice series! I look forward to reading more of those, especially from different parts of Canada. Also, this should help me answer my own questionnaire very soon. This is such a great initiative to have launched this series Chrissy. I love it!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 13, 2021 at 9:35 pm

      Hi Save Long and Prosper—thanks so much for the support and kind words. One of the upcoming interviews will be from a reader in Ontario, so stay tuned for that!

      I can’t wait to read and share your interview. 🙂

  • Reply
    Baby Boomer Super Saver
    February 14, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    A fascinating look at how other people spend money on the path to FI and how spending may (or may not) change once financial independence is achieved. Very interesting to see the breakdown shared by Another Loonie. All I can say about Al & his wife’s food spending is WOW! There’s no way I could get the food spending so low for my family of two! Kudos to your wife (as you said she’s the driver behind this). She must also be a great cook!

    One observation I had was that you noted you do not have more than a small amount of life or disability insurance, because it’s through your job. Usually life insurance policies through employers cover the cost of a funeral & burial (or cremation), with a tiny bit left over (possibly). Disability insurance through an employer or union, if available, usually only covers the temporary period before permanent disability benefits from the government are received (which can drag out). Anyway, that is my understanding of the situation in the US. Maybe it is different in Vancouver, BC?

    I do not sell insurance, so this is not a pitch, haha. If your job disappeared tomorrow, the little bit of life insurance you have would end with that job. The reason I’m bringing this up is because although you don’t have kids yet, you said you wanted some down the road. Purchasing low-cost term life insurance right now while you are young will make it much less expensive & you can lock in those low rates now. If you were to pass away now, would your wife have to sell the house & move? Something to consider. Same with disability insurance – if either one of you became disabled & couldn’t earn the same income as before, would you have to sell your home? The best (and cheapest) life insurance to get is term life insurance. The best disability insurance to get is own-occupation (so you will receive the benefit if you can’t do your own occupation, but the insurance company thinks you could be a greeter in a large retail store, for example).

    So even though you don’t have children yet, do either you or your wife depend on one another’s incomes to meet all of your financial obligations? If so, that’s what insurance is for. Again, I’m not selling anything! Just an observation which you can take or leave. : )

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 14, 2021 at 8:38 pm

      Hi Kathy—these are all excellent points. It’s a great suggestion to get life insurance sooner, while you’re still young and healthy. My husband and I did that as well, before we had kids.

      However, we didn’t know as much about finances and insurance back then, so I can’t credit ourselves for that good decision! It was just lucky timing that an insurance agent came to my work and gave a presentation about term life insurance.

      Regarding disability insurance, I’m not sure if all employer plans are the same in Canada, but the ones we’ve had offer short-term disability coverage for the first four (or so) months. After that, you transition to long-term disability (which is also employer-provided).

      That typically lasts for two years, at which point you would apply for government assistance. What is the same in both our countries is that takes quite some time to apply for the government benefits! So it’s wise to plan ahead for the worst case.

      I admittedly don’t know as much as I should about disability insurance. I’d never heard of own-occupation coverage. That’s an important distinction, and one that I’m sure most people (including me) didn’t know about.

      I know you speak from experience, especially because you’re a social worker. You must see all kinds of challenging situations that inform your own decision-making. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

  • Reply
    Latestarterfire
    February 15, 2021 at 8:21 pm

    Wow, I’m amazed by your food spending, Another Loonie! I’m single and spend more than that, haha! I’m also envious of the low utility bills in Vancouver 🙂 Thanks for sharing – it’s fun to have a sticky beak at others’ spending

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 15, 2021 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Latestarterfire—I think all of us are in awe of AL’s low grocery spending! I wonder if food costs are much higher in Australia, though, given that you’re an island nation?

      It is fun to peek into others’ spending! Thanks for commenting. Looking forward to your interview sometime in the future!

  • Reply
    Teresa
    February 18, 2021 at 4:49 pm

    Thanks Al for sharing your expenses with us. It was wise to choose to live in a suburb close to Vancouver because you have considered family help and support when you have little ones – nothing like grandparents to help out – free babysitting! I am embarrassed that I spend at least $800/month on groceries (even though I buy sale items!) for just the 2 of us. Mind you, we hardly eat out and I love to cook/bake. My gifts to people, friends & family are usually homemade treats rather than buying something that they may not need. Your expenses give me thought on how I may see what I can cut back a bit. Thanks Chrissy – great interview and information as usual!

    • Reply
      AnotherLoonie
      February 18, 2021 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks, Teresa! Yeah, living close to our parents was sooo important to us. We already enjoyed living farther away from them for a while, but now that kids are on the horizon, we see the benefit of being nearby. I’m glad you got something positive from my interview!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 18, 2021 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Teresa (aka Mom)—yes, we have taken advantage of plenty of free babysitting from you over the years. It’s such a wonderful privilege to have that kind of support nearby. As for your groceries, you’re right that it’s your generous gifts of food that make up the bulk of your costs! However, it’s also your hobby and passion to cook and bake, so maybe some of it should be counted as entertainment. 😆

  • Reply
    Reverse The Crush
    February 18, 2021 at 9:45 pm

    Awesome start to the series, ESBFI! Thanks for featuring AL, I am a big fan of the updates. It’s interesting to see the cost of living in Vancouver. It seems similar to the costs in Toronto. Sounds like AL is well on the way to FI with the 45% savings rate over the next 19 years. Thanks for the update.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 18, 2021 at 10:31 pm

      Hi Graham—AL was a great first guest (and a patient one, as I worked out the kinks). From what I’ve heard from friends, other bloggers and my podcast guests, it does seem that Toronto and Vancouver are pretty much on par with essentials. Lucky us, right? HCOL twin cities!

  • Reply
    Mr. Dreamer @ VibrantDreamer.com
    February 26, 2021 at 6:25 am

    It is always great to see such detailed numbers and transparency. Thank you both for the great interview 🙂

    It made me realize that despite the challenges in Quebec, we are saving a lot comparing with other parts of the country. My car insurance is less $29.45 / month with Intact Insurance. Our Hydro (Including Heat, Hot Water, and Electricity) is average $70 / month. I should mention we don’t own a home (nor planning to buy one) but our 3 bedroom 2-level 2-bath apartment overlooking Ottawa River (Aka, amazing view all year long) is $1045 / month (Which is my highest expense).

    The 2nd highest monthly bill is for grocery. That is about $750 / month for the 4 of us. Clothing and Footwear aren’t cheap and kids need continuous shopping (Aka 2 snow pants / season – 2 boots, these alone cost more than $250 a year).

    Thanks again

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      February 26, 2021 at 3:25 pm

      Hi Mr. Dreamer—I have always been surprised to hear how affordable it can be to live in Quebec. It sounds like a very liveable, beautiful part of the country, so it seems that the cost of living should be higher than it is. How lucky you are!

      I am AMAZED by your incredibly low expenses. I think you need to take part in this series so we can see it all! Grocery costs seem to be all over the map for some reason. There doesn’t seem to be a normal or expected range, even with similar family sizes. This is one very interesting bit of info that is emerging from these interviews and the comments. As I publish more interviews, maybe we’ll start to see some patterns to it? It’ll be cool to see if that happens!

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment… and please do consider joining the series. I have a feeling you have lots of money-saving tips to share!

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