FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

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

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

Photo by Dylan Carr on Unsplash

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

Hello, and welcome to interview #4 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 #4: Ana from Kitchener, Ontario

In today’s interview, we’ll meet Ana, who lives the FIRE life in Kitchener, Ontario with her family. She’s a reader of this blog and generously volunteered to be interviewed for this series.

Ana’s story is unique because of her unusually large family size of six people (three of whom are adults). She and her family also live in what she calls a “larger-than-average” home. Interestingly, her house factors into their FI goals differently… depending on whether she or her husband gets their way!

I hope you enjoy learning how Ana finds ways to live the FIRE life—despite her larger-than-average house and household. 🙂

Part 1: Getting to know you

Photo by Kevin Delvecchio on Unsplash

Tell us about you and your family

Our household consists of 6 individuals. My husband and I will have been married for 18 years this fall. We are in our mid-40s. We have three children, ranging in age from 10 to 16. We are both university educated, and in fact, I would say that I am ‘over-educated’ in that I have several university degrees—not all of which were very useful in hindsight. 

For several years I was a stay-at-home mom before I went back to university for a professional degree which made me more employable. Upon graduation, I immediately was hired and began working in my professional field. My husband has had a professional career for our entire marriage. 

My mother has lived with us for the last 14 years, as she has no savings and was not prepared for retirement. She also helped to take care of our children during this time when I returned to school and later when we were both working full time.

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

This is a difficult question because as you will soon learn, my husband and I have different visions of what FIRE will and will not include and thus what our FIRE number needs to be. 

Currently, I estimate we have 3 years left to reach FIRE -with- the caveat of downsizing our current home. If we ultimately choose not to downsize our home, one or both of us will need to keep working for many more years.

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.

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.

Our final FIRE goal is one that allows us to travel 1–2 times a year (or allows us to ‘snowbird’ down south in a small Airbnb/VRBO rental for 1–3 months a year during the winter, when our kids are adults) and also allows us to have some limited discretionary spending. 

Spending preferences

I’m not a big shopper and consider myself a minimalist who does not desire many material possessions. In general, I value security, experiences and relationships over things. My husband would prefer to spend more money on material possessions and would not consider himself a minimalist. He enjoys new tech and would prefer to have more expensive hobbies. 

Travel

We both enjoy travelling and like to go on one to two vacations/trips each year. Our vacations are usually fairly DIY in terms of planning and tend to be focused on a big hiking trip out of province/country if it is just the two of us. 

If we take the kids, it has tended to be more of a Disney vacation off-resort while the kids were young. We would like to continue travelling in our retirement years and hiking up mountains as long as our bodies allow us. This is a lofty FIRE goal and I have broken it down into a few steps.

Our steps to FIRE

Within 3 years, we should achieve our first FIRE goal. At this point, we could lean FIRE without downsizing. This would include no travelling and no discretionary expenses. It would allow us to stay in our current home and feel absolutely house-poor. It does not sound very fun.

At this same level of savings, we could reach FIRE -with- travelling and more discretionary expenses, IF we downsize our current home to one that is half the cost or moved to a lower cost of living area. When we reach this goal in approximately 3 years, I fully intend to either retire or get a less stressful part-time job to supplement our income for discretionary spending/travel. 

Different goals

I find my career to be fairly constraining and stressful. My husband, on the other hand, enjoys his career and has no desire to retire in 3 years. He plans on working at it for several years in some capacity. My husband also is not keen on downsizing our current home anytime soon, which will make it more difficult to reach our ultimate FIRE goal as originally stated above. 

Our largest expense is maintaining our home and our property taxes, as we live in a larger-than-average home. I just can’t imagine sustaining our property tax bill with inflation over time. Also, we have a large home, and once our children move out, I have no intention of maintaining such a large space that would be mostly empty. 

I am hoping that at some point I can convince him to at least switch to more part-time/contract work. If my husband refuses to ever downsize, then I anticipate he will need to continue working for at least 13 more years to sustain the same desired lifestyle in this same home. 

We revisit our goals and desires every year together and will likely change them as time goes on. 

Tell us about your living situation

We live and own a larger-than-average detached home (~4,000 square feet if you include the basement). We bought this home before we ever even heard the word FIRE. We are not on a bus line and live deep in suburbia on the edge of town in a generally quiet and pleasant neighbourhood. The closest store is about a 45-minute walk. 

I acknowledge that we were privileged to have been able to buy an average-sized home back in 2003, so we had built up some housing equity before we moved again and upsized to this home 9 years ago. 

I don’t think I could afford (or would want to afford our current house price if I had to purchase it now). I do look at the realtor listings regularly because I would like to downsize and acknowledge that our housing costs are slowing us down on our path to FIRE. 

The problem is that the housing market is simply ridiculous right now and it just doesn’t seem worth it to move at this particular point in time. Starter homes have bidding wars and sell for over ask. My husband is also not keen on moving. 

Why did you choose to live in Kitchener?

We chose to live here mainly because we grew up in the area, and feel most comfortable living in a mid-size city in South-Western Ontario. We moved away from Kitchener-Waterloo and did live in several other cities including Toronto, for 8 years before we came back here, once I secured employment after graduation, as my job dictated where we would live. 

My husband’s job takes him all over South-Western Ontario when he is not working from home, and thus he was not limited to one location. We have discussed whether we would move to another city, as the cost of living here is increasing, but we have decided that we won’t move until our kids are older. 

Kitchener-Waterloo has easy access to several major Universities and Colleges and other amenities that make it an ideal location for raising a family. We also have several family members who live nearby and it would be sad to leave them at this point in our lives.

Part 2: The expenses

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

Important notes about the numbers

  • Only essential expenses are included.
  • Discretionary expenses  (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
  • Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar. 
  • Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
  • In this interview, the home currency is Canadian dollars.
  • For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter for each expense.

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

1. How much does housing cost in Kitchener?

Photo by Bonyamin Mellish on Pexels

Mortgage ($0) 🇨🇦

We are debt-averse people and have always prioritized paying extra on our mortgage. We finally became mortgage-free last year. Some would argue that this put us back as we upsized to our home and did not focus on retirement/investments very much until the last four years.

Property tax ($559/month; $6,710/year) 🇨🇦

I use a credit card to pay my property taxes to try and receive 1% back in monies to spend at that store.

Strata/HOA fees ($0) 🇨🇦

Not applicable.

Home insurance ($117/month; $1,400/year) 🇨🇦

We did increase the deductible on our house and we utilize a mortgage broker. This year, our house insurance jumped up several hundred dollars and our broker stated that it was an industry-wide phenomenon.

Chrissy’s note: I cut our home insurance costs in half by switching to Square One Insurance—use my referral link for a $25 bonus!

Home maintenance ($417/month; $5,000/year) 🇨🇦

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

We have always maintained our house and being that it is 20 years old, unfortunately have hit that age when we are having to deal with a lot of major repairs and improvements. For example: roof, replaced a few appliances, garage door. We are planning to get all the major repairs/replacements finished before we FIRE. 

DIY

We do love DIY and have done that for many improvements and repairs if we felt capable. We installed new flooring in our house when we first moved in, built our own deck, did all the painting, fence installation, dishwasher repair, fridge repair etc. YouTube videos are amazing for learning how to do simple things.

Swimming pool

We have an in-ground swimming pool and learned how to do the open/closing/maintenance ourselves. This saves us over $1,000/year. I know having a pool doesn’t sound very FI—but we choose to not spend in other categories.

Furnace

I started paying $20 a month for furnace repair insurance last year as our furnace is 10 years old now. Since we started, they have come out twice; once for fall maintenance and once for a motherboard replacement in the depths of winter. When we are forced to buy a new furnace, we won’t pay for this program for the first few years again. 

Furniture

We tend to try and buy a few strong, sturdy and timeless pieces of furniture that look nice and will last many years. That is, we do not shop at IKEA. We buy leather couches, and this year purchased our second new couch in 20 years. 

Our first leather couch was finally starting to show wear from the abuse it takes from the children and pets. I did try a DIY repair but it didn’t last for long. Our large dining room table is solid wood and has been with us for 20 years. We use it every day for eating, homework and congregating. 

I bought a $120 piece of thick clear vinyl a few years ago that we have sitting on the surface of the table, so the wood is unmarred and looks the same as it did when brand new. 

Minimalism

I also have always sold or donated any unused/unwanted material possessions we have in our house. I am a strong advocate of minimalism and hate clutter. Having less clutter makes it easier to keep your house clean and maintain it. 

Buying used

I have also used the same means to purchase some things, such as desks for the kids on Facebook Marketplace. I’ve also used some online auction websites to buy some new things. For example, a few area rugs returned from Home Depot online and sold at auction; outdoor blinds at auction etc.

No more Costco

I used to shop at Costco but discontinued my membership last year. I found that if I kept track of sales at other stores, I saved more money. I also have family who love their Costco memberships, and they will usually take me there every few months if I ask.

OPTIONAL: Home equity opportunity cost ($45,000–$55,000/year) 🇨🇦

Our home is paid off and would sell for approximately $900,000–$1,100,000 in today’s market (based on other sales in the neighbourhood). So, $900,000–$1,100,000 x 5% = $45,000–$55,000 in opportunity cost after one year of investing.

About the home equity opportunity cost ‘expense’

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

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

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

Still, I think it’s an interesting number to consider, so I’ve decided to include it. Depending on your feedback, I’ll decide if this category will become a permanent part of the series. 🙂

2. How much does transportation cost in Kitchener?

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

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

We never buy new cars. We have two cars currently because we each need access to our own cars for our jobs and cannot share a car. Once one or both of us retire, we’ll drop down to one vehicle. 

We use a broker to try and cut down costs. We have no replacement insurance on our 18 year old Honda. It still runs fine and we have no plans on replacing it (with another used car!) until it dies or becomes too expensive to repair. 

Our other car is 4 years old with low mileage and we hope it will last for a long time. We tend to replace our old cars with cars that are 2–4 years old with low mileage.

Gas ($120/month; $1,440/year) 🇨🇦

Our employers pay us gas mileage which usually covers almost all of our gas and vehicle maintenance costs—so really I could’ve put zero under those costs, but I was trying to estimate how much we spend on personal gas a month. 

I use a credit card that provides me with 5% back on gas purchases if I purchase them at the affiliated gas station. I used to go to Costco, but it was so far from my house, that it stopped feeling worthwhile.

Vehicle maintenance ($133/month; $1,600/year) 🇨🇦

We use a local garage mechanic we trust. Unfortunately we aren’t very DIY with car maintenance and repair. Maybe a future learning opportunity when we become FI. 

Bike maintenance ($25/month; $300/year) 🇨🇦

Last year we bought a few supplies to allow us to do our own bike maintenance. It’s a new skill we are learning with the help of YouTube and a friend.

Parking and tolls ($2/month; $25/year) 🇨🇦

We avoid the 407 except for work and then we expense it. 

We don’t really go anywhere where we would usually have to pay for parking. We would generally try to park further away (if possible) and walk versus pay for parking. This obviously isn’t always possible. I find it more likely happens on vacation, and then I include it in my vacation budget. 

Transit ($0) 🇨🇦

We don’t use transit ever. We either drive, walk or bike.

3. Food

Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Groceries ($1,100/month; $13,200/year) 🇨🇦

There are six of us in our family, and only one who eats child-sized portions. We do not skimp out on food costs. We eat meat and fresh vegetables. We purchase grass-fed, grass-finished beef, free-range chickens/eggs from a local farmer. 

We mostly eat at home and do batch cooking/freezer food. I hate food waste, but we are not perfect and sometimes unwittingly waste food. i.e. lettuce wilting before we ate it; trying a new recipe that was a complete failure; forgetting to put the leftovers in the fridge; etc.

I use the Flipp app to price match my groceries. I do most of my shopping at the cheaper grocery chains like Freshco and Food Basics. I will buy food that is discounted because it is close to the expiry date and then batch cook it for the freezer.

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

Eating out ($120/month; $1,440/year) 🇨🇦

We are able to expense some of our eating out through work, so again, this category is actually cheaper then what I have listed.

Prior to COVID, we would eat out very rarely as it is expensive to take six people out to a restaurant. I hate ordering alcohol in restaurants as the price margins drive me absolutely crazy. I also abhor paying tips as a ‘percentage of the entire bill’ (why am I paying a tip on taxes?)

This, combined with our ability to make excellent meals at home, keeps us away from restaurants for the most part. We leave dining out for special occasions or a few take-out lunches when driving on vacations. 

I admit also that I did not do a good job of separating out our ‘vacation’ eating out/dining from our ‘regular’ food/eating out costs. I tend to just stick all the food bills in the same food category because even when we travel, we usually make our own food, so it doesn’t matter much if it’s at an AirbnB in Florida, a friend’s cottage, or our house. 

Maybe we splurge a bit on the type of food during holidays and can’t price match as well, but in the end I don’t think it’s too significant. You still have to eat—wherever you are. 

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

Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Natural gas ($135/month; $1,620/year) 🇨🇦

We have an in-ground pool which raises our natural gas costs about $300 a year. We try to keep the pool at a lower heat and we bought a solar cover to keep it warm. We use credit card reward points to buy all of our pool chemicals for the year.

We have a programmable house thermostat that I use for the furnace/AC. We try not to keep the house too hot in winter/cold in summer but we have to maintain a certain temperature due to having a senior live with us who cannot handle extreme weather.

Electricity ($130/month; $1,560/year) 🇨🇦

Our family is terrible at turning off the lights/computers when not in use and it is something we continue to work on. 

We have a time-of-use program for electricity and water in our community, and I try to do things like the laundry during the low peak times. 

Water ($135/month; $1,620/year) 🇨🇦

We use rain barrels, and have no grass. Our front and backyard are giant gardens full of hardy perennial plants, and a few vegetables with the exception of some concrete and a patio around our pool. 

We do have a small in-ground pool, but using the solar cover prevents extra evaporation when not in use, and we maintain it so we have no leaks. I like to think that our pool water use equals out what some of the neighbours use to water their lawns. 

Garbage and recycling ($0) 🇨🇦

This is included in our property taxes and I have no control over the costs. I don’t pay for any extra garbage fees and try to recycle, etc. just to reduce our impact on the environment. 

Internet ($0) 🇨🇦

Our internet is $70/month ($840/year) but is paid for by our employer currently. We have an unlimited data internet package and we use the internet for much of our entertainment as well (i.e. streaming Netflix, etc).

Home phone ($0) 🇨🇦

We have no home phone.

Cell phones ($0) 🇨🇦

Our cell phone plans are $62/month ($746/year) but are paid for by our employers. 

We don’t buy new phones unless we are forced to by obsolescence or it is covered by our employer. I still use an iPhone 6 that I have had for approximately seven years. I had to replace the battery recently and now it works great again. 

Our kids are not permitted cell phones until highschool. My oldest still doesn’t have his own cell phone because this year there seemed like no point with all the learning done mostly at home. When we do get a plan for them, it will most likely be one with no or limited data, and using our old cellphones.

Streaming entertainment ($24/month; $282/year) 🇨🇦

We have 2 streaming services (maybe not essential to some people, but feels essential to us 😆) and those cost us $23.50 a month total for all our viewing entertainment. 

5. How much do other essentials cost in Kitchener?

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Life and disability insurance ($60/month; $716/year) 🇨🇦

We have term life insurance that we will cancel at the end of this current term, when we reach FI and our kids are older. We used a broker for this and shopped around last year for the best price.

I have other life/disability insurance that is part of my compensation package and I have no control over eliminating/reducing it. 

Medical insurance ($250/month; $3,000/year) 🇨🇦

I have a health/benefits program under my employer that is part of my compensation package. I pay extra to include the kids/spouse. This came in handy last year when one of my children got braces. 

My husband’s employer is instituting a health and benefits program for their employees this year so we may shift these costs if his plan ends up being cheaper/better coverage etc. 

Out-of-pocket medical expenses ($60/month; $720/year) 🇨🇦

We are lucky to be healthy and try to maintain our health, thus we have avoided spending much in this category. Most of the expenses listed here are for things like vision testing/glasses which are not covered by my medical insurance plan; or include the small deductible we have to pay for Registered Massage Therapy. 

Clothing and footwear ($175/month; $2,100/year) 🇨🇦

We have 3 growing kids who constantly need a new wardrobe each year as they grow. Our youngest does get hand me downs. I don’t shop thrift stores as often for the children, but I do this for myself. 

Instead I shop the sales and don’t buy the best-quality clothes for them. We don’t buy expensive name brands and aren’t really that into fashion. For example, I shop at stores like Old Navy for the kids when they have their 50-75% off sales. 

For myself, I already noted that I see myself as a minimalist and am working on slowly replacing my worn-out clothing pieces with a small capsule wardrobe made up of high-quality, well-constructed, versatile pieces, i.e. merino wool shirts, classic jeans, black pants, black dress, etc. 

Personal care ($12/month; $140/year) 🇨🇦

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

I stick all the personal hygiene products in my grocery bills because I tend to just buy it at Costco or Walmart with my groceries. 

Though I keep haircuts separate. Since COVID happened, I’ve done everyone’s haircuts and I haven’t gotten my own hair cut. I do plan to get my hair cut soon but I have a neighbour who cuts hair at home and charges us $20 a haircut. 

So I go 1–2x a year and my husband probably goes 4x a year to see her with some touch-ups in-between from myself. I cut the kid’s hair because it’s easy and they aren’t demanding any complicated styles yet. 

I used to colour my hair years ago but did it myself. Now I longer colour my hair so that saves some money.

Technology ($0) 🇨🇦

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

My husband and I each have a cellphone, but they’re paid for through our work and get upgraded every 3–5 years. Our internet is paid for through my husband’s employer because he is required to work from home and they pay to upgrade his computer every few years; we’re allowed to keep and pass the old computers/cells down through our personal household. 

Our kids do not have their own cellphones yet but will probably use one of our old one when we decide they can have one. Our oldest two will probably get a basic plan like public mobile next year when they are both in highschool. 

A cellphone didn’t really seem that necessary this year when they spent so much time at home and can still connect with friends through the computer. 

Part 3: Adding it all up

Now that we’ve detailed all of Ana’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 at the beginning of 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 Kitchener?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Mortgage$0$0
Property tax$559$6,710
Strata/HOA fees
$0$0
Home insurance$117$1,400
Maintenance$417$5,000
TOTAL$1,093$13,110

Home equity opportunity cost (OPTIONAL): $45,000–$55,000/year

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

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Vehicle insurance$150$1,800
Gas$120$1,440
Vehicle maintenance$133$1,600
Bike maintenance$25$300
Parking and tolls$2$25
Transit$0$0
TOTAL$430$5,165

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Groceries$1,100$13,200
Eating out$120$1,440
TOTAL$1,220$14,640

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Natural gas$135$1,620
Electricity$130$1,560
Water$135$1,620
Garbage and recycling$0$0
Internet$0$0
Home phone$0$0
Cell phones$0$0
Streaming entertainment$24$282
TOTAL$424$5,082

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Life and disability insurance$60$716
Medical insurance$250$3,000
Out-of-pocket medical expenses$60$720
Clothing and footwear$175$2,100
Personal care$0$0
Technology$12$140
TOTAL$556$6,676

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (CAD)Annual (CAD)
Housing$1,093$13,110
Transportation$430$5,165
Food$1,220$14,640
Utilities and bills$424$5,082
Other essentials$556$6,676
TOTAL$3,723$44,673

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 few additional expenses that Ana wanted to share:

RESPs

We also contribute to our children’s RESPs and our aim is to max out the government grants of $7,200 for each of them. We expect our children to later contribute to their post-secondary costs as well, as I don’t think the RESPs will have enough to cover the entire costs.

Travel and credit cards

We have two different credit cards that we use to help with travel hacking. Before COVID happened, we had intended to use these points to cover the flights for our entire family for a vacation out of the country this year. 

Now that trip is delayed until we feel it is safe to travel outside of Canada. We never carry a balance and always pay our credit cards in full each month. Every few years one of us will get a new credit card to obtain a boost to our travel hacking, but we don’t do this nearly as often as some do.

Bank fees

We have a no-fee bank account. 

Related reading: Chrissy’s detailed, honest review of EQ Bank’s Savings Plus Account

Pets

We do have several pets. I’m not a believer in taking our pets to the vet for an annual exam if they are healthy. After all, as humans we don’t get annual exams when we are young and healthy. We get the rabies vaccine done for $30 at a vaccine clinic each year. We feed our dog and cat high-quality pet food to keep them healthy. 

Our dog has to get groomed several times a year, due to his breed and our groomer used to be a vet technician. Obviously she is not a vet, but she has been instrumental in helping us keep our pet healthy so that he does not need medical attention. Also—we bought our dog from a licensed breeder and this has helped to ensure we had a healthy pet from the start.

The public library

We visit the library about twice a week. Currently it’s just for curbside pick up and drop off during COVID isolation, but even before COVID, we visited the library frequently. We borrow DVDs, board games, and of course books/magazines. 

We rarely buy books anymore unless we really think we will read them multiple times. Over the last two years I have sold off most of the book collections that I bought thinking I would keep them forever. We also use our phones as e-readers and borrow e-books from the public library.

‘Fun money’

We assign each other $200 per month for fun money that we are allowed to spend (or save) on whatever we want without guilt or judgement. I tend to save my money for trips/getaways with my girlfriends; my husband tends to spend his on his growing and ever-changing list of new hobbies.

My husband has also downloaded a few apps he does for some extra fun spending money. Things like being a mystery shopper/doing surveys etc. He earned approximately $450–600 per year doing this for the last few years, and he gets to keep it as more extra fun money for himself. 

Ana’s summary

When I re-read my report, I don’t think we sound like what the media depicts as members of the stereotypical FIRE movement.

  • We own a big house which has associated big expenses. 
  • We own two cars and we drive around a lot living in suburbia. 
  • I don’t buy everything used. Instead I buy a few expensive high quality items usually new.
  • We spend a lot of money on our food!

I’ve been called cheap by family before because they think I should spend more money in categories that I don’t personally value. What I do try to do is prioritize what things I value and that’s where I will spend money. 

Currently, we value our larger home with its in-ground swimming pool. I’m hoping the time will eventually come when both my husband and I agree, together, that we no longer value having a large home. 

We have never valued cars or fashion so we don’t spend money on fancy clothes or new cars. We value travel so we make sure we save to spend in that category; and when we do travel, we try to cut costs where we can. 

When I do spend my money on things, I spend a lot of time researching them and trying to get the most bang for my buck. Now that we are done paying our mortgage, we try to live on one salary and save the entire second salary (after taxes). 

We are trying to teach our kids the importance of financial security, financial independence and the miracle of compounding interest over time. 

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge that we have had some advantages and privileges due to our random circumstances of birth; but I also would like to acknowledge that we have made choices both good and bad that have also contributed to getting us to where we are today. Hopefully in the future we make more good choices than bad.

Chrissy’s closing thoughts

Thanks to Ana for sharing her spending in such detail! While she feels her family’s spending doesn’t match the FIRE stereotype, I think Ana’s spending is still very frugal—especially when you consider her larger-than-average household.

They may spend on a few large items, but Ana and her family do a lot to save money in other areas: DIY home repairs and maintenance, cooking at home, buying used cars, using the library, etc. In this respect, I think they’re pretty typically FIRE.

By cutting back on things that are less important to them, Ana’s family is able to spend more on things they value. This is the kind of FIRE spending I (and many in the FIRE community) advocate : it’s values-based, intentional and deprivation-free.

I think Ana and her husband deserve a round of applause for their financial accomplishments, despite some early headwinds. (She was a stay-at-home mom to three kids… then she went back to school… and they’ve supported her mother for the last 14 years.)

That’s a lot to take on. And yet, they’re mortgage-free in their 40s, live on one income, and they’ll retire earlier than most Canadians. How amazing is that? Ana’s story shows, once again, how powerful the FIRE mindset and journey can be. 🔥

Share your thoughts

Were you surprised by Ana’s essential expenses? Are any of them significantly different from where you live? Share your thoughts in the comments section, 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.

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!

Lionel and his girlfriend live in London, England—one of the world’s most expensive cities. Even so, Lionel shows us how it’s absolutely possible to live affordably there!

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!

You Might Also Like

37 Comments

  • Reply
    Shashi
    March 17, 2021 at 9:57 am

    Ana – kudos to you and your family for managing essential expenses within $45k for a family of six and being mortgage-free in your 40s. What I like, is that you are clearly aware of what you value and things you can do to achieve FIRE in the next few years. For your husband, maybe “The Joy of Not Working” by Ernie Zelinski might change his mind 😉 Thank you for sharing your story and wish you the best!

    Chrissy – another great interview. Regarding the opportunity cost, I understand why it is important but as you said there are other items that need to be considered for a complete assessment.

    • Reply
      Ana
      March 17, 2021 at 10:54 am

      Thanks Shashi. Chrissy’s interview series was a fun excuse for me to sit down and look at all our numbers objectively from the last 3 years again, and to think about whether any of our values have changed since we started. I’m still working on getting my husband to accept the FIRE lifestyle more completely. He’s come a long way in the last 3 years, so I have faith we will be on the same page eventually terms of downsizing and the RE part of FIRE.

      • Chrissy
        March 17, 2021 at 5:39 pm

        Hi Shashi—I agree, Ana and her family have accomplished A LOT and should be proud of where they are financially. 👏

        I’ve seen Ernie Zelinski’s books recommended several times but have never read them. I think it’s time for me to get on that! It sounds like he focuses a lot on heading into retirement with a healthy mindset.

        Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing your thoughts on the opportunity cost. I think I’ll most likely continue to share it (when my interviewees are open to it) just for everyone’s interest and to generate conversations around the topic. 😁

  • Reply
    Darlene
    March 17, 2021 at 2:47 pm

    Great job you guys! 👏

    I’ve been loving these interviews btw!

    Chrissy, I’d love to see a post about how to become a secret shopper in Canada. Or if you already know of a good post already written somewhere?

    I hope you and your family are doing well. Xx

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 17, 2021 at 5:59 pm

      Hi Darlene! It’s nice to hear from you. Yes, as Ana mentioned in her interview, her husband does mystery shopping to earn some extra fun money. 🙂

      I actually started mystery shopping myself after reading this excellent post from Gen Y Money: https://www.genymoney.ca/mystery-shopping-canada/

      I only managed to do two mystery shops before COVID hit, but earned a few bucks, some wine, and a package of allergy meds. I did one shop with my 12YO and the wine one with my husband. It was lots of fun pretending to be regular shoppers, ha ha.

      I have been receiving notifications of new assignments again, so I think they’re starting to ramp up again. Let me know if you ended up doing it and if you enjoy the experience!

    • Reply
      Ana
      March 19, 2021 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Darlene,
      He has down google searches to find the various apps etc that he uses. Things like “field agent”. I tried it for a couple of months but honestly it’s not my thing. He is of the “let’s find ways to make more money to spend” mentality, while I have always been more of the “Lets find ways to cut back to save money” mentality. Probably says a lot about our personalities right there. LOL. Good luck if you try it out.

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    March 18, 2021 at 5:35 am

    Thank you for sharing your numbers Ana.

    As I was reading it I kept thinking about how well your spending is aligned with your values. It sounds like you’ve done a great job being mindful of your money and that really is the key to the FIRE lifestyle.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 18, 2021 at 4:23 pm

      Hi Maria—you”re so right, Ana and her family are very good at aligning their spending with their values. I think it’s the missing component in so many people’s finances. Getting our values and spending aligned helps everything fall into place and gets us to our goals sooner.

      Thanks for commenting and reading!

    • Reply
      Ana
      March 19, 2021 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Maria,
      Thanks for your kind words.
      I’ve just recently started reading Jacob Lund Fisker’s book “Early Retirement Extreme”. I’ve had it on order from inter-library loan for a few months and it finally arrived! He has a good chapter where he talks about “things” and how you value “stuff”. Anyhow – your comment reminded me of the chapter i just read.
      It’s definitely interesting to consider how ones values can change over time and are influenced in part by how you were raised. I grew up in a lower class single parent household, while my husband grew up in a typical middle class 2-parent family. His dad is very materialistic and shows his love by buying excessive stuff. Every holiday equaled gifts, and the cheaper the better because then he could have more gifts to give; and in his mind more=better.
      Anyhow …my point is that for various reasons we each have different values and the two of us have been able to meet in the middle so far. We do try to have long discussions in our household about the worth and cost of different things and these discussions have continued to grow and change over time. I also have to say that ERE is the first book I am considering purchasing in about 4 years. I LOVE the philosophical nature of the book.

      • Chrissy
        March 19, 2021 at 9:02 pm

        Ana—I love so many things about this comment. And I have to say bravo to you for taking in the ERE concepts. Maybe my brain just doesn’t work the same way, but it was not an easy read for me!

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    March 19, 2021 at 10:45 am

    Thanks for sharing Ana, it is helpful to see others coming forth with their perspectives to everything. My one comment to all of this would be my usual perspective, the massive ecological footprint of the house and the resources that go into maintaining it and all that goes along with it. Kudos to all the other things in your life the family is doing in regards to reducing and buying used etc but the financial and sustainable impact should be considered together. Chrissy, I also really like how the Economist suggested opportunity cost. When you put that with the equity, cost to maintain, heat, power, taxes, ecological footprint and now opportunity cost it become glaringly clear that you are correct in your thought that you need to downsize Ana.
    Cheers

    • Reply
      Ana
      March 19, 2021 at 11:30 am

      Hi Chris,
      What can I say except – I know. 😢
      I’m going to keep nudging my partner along and slowly we’ll get there. I’m a big fan of your blog so I know you lived in a larger house yourself in the past and changed it all a few years ago. The difference being that your partner had a similar mindset once you discovered FI. Hopefully we get there too eventually.

      • Chrissy
        March 19, 2021 at 8:59 pm

        Ana—I feel your pain! It’s a constant inner struggle for me to accept my husband’s gas-guzzling classic muscle car. Everything about it is harmful to the Earth and our wallets. But what can I do? It’s a lifelong dream come true for him and he’s not an eco-frugal freak like me! I’d rather have a happy husband, and hope that one day he’ll see the light. (And in the meantime, I’ll double down on my Earth-saving efforts.)

        Chris—you are incredibly lucky that you and your wife are so in-tune. My husband and I are 95% aligned, which I’m grateful for. But in that last little 5% we do have some major differences… and that’s okay. I can’t expect perfection in life! And our differences keep things interesting. 😉

        Thanks for the feedback on the opportunity cost. I know it’s not a black or white calculation, but it’s still interesting and useful to consider.

  • Reply
    Mr. Dreamer @ VibrantDreamer.com
    March 21, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you, Ana and Chrissy.

    Truly amazing to have your mom living with you. It is normal in my culture but not a familiar concept in North American culture.

    I hope your husband wakes up and cooperates with selling the house in few years. You pay too much in house expenses (Tax, Insurance, Heat, Electricity, Maintenance, Insurance). Plus it won’t be good if ever this house bubble bursts (2008 US).

    I have a question. “I use a credit card that provides me with 5% back on gas purchases”. May I ask what Credit Card is this? I always try to maximize what I get back on my spending. Recently, I got “CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite” and linked it with Journie App to save 10 cents / L in Chevron, Ultramar and Pioneer. This is on top of my CT World Elite MC saving 5 cents / liter. Getting prepared for Summer road trips.

    • Reply
      Ana
      March 21, 2021 at 5:17 pm

      Hi Mr.dreamer,
      My parents are Immigrants from the Balkans so it’s common in our culture to have multi-generational households – my husband’s family is “English-Canadian” though so definitely not common in his family at all. Multigenerational households definitely have their pluses and minuses. I’m also grateful that my husband tolerates my mother living with us. It’s definitely challenging sometimes.
      I realize I made an error in my tips re:the credit card. I use the CT triangle card as well so I get 5 “cents” a litre too, which only equaled 5 “percent” when gas was cheaper last year. I think I made the mistake because it’s 1 “percent” on my property taxes and other bills. I apologize for the error.
      BTW, I checked out your blog and will be interested to follow and see what else you write in the future. Best wishes on your FIRE journey – it sounds like you’re doing everything right so far.

      • Mr. Dreamer @ VibrantDreamer.com
        March 21, 2021 at 5:52 pm

        Hi Ana,

        Thank you for your reply! It is really nice that multigenerational households are normal in the Balkans. I had no idea. Really cool and surprising to me. Of course it has its Pros and Cons.

        I love the Balkans. We had it all planned for Summer 2021. A 1 month road trip though all the Balkan countries. Guess what? The plan is all smashed when Covid hit!

        Oh yeah for the CT 5 cent. It was 5% and the best return till Gas climbed up again (It was $1.21 here in QC today). Still I think it is a great CC and money back at 4.13% rate for me but I found about CIBC / Journie yesterday and activated them. There is currently a welcome bonus. 150 Journie for linking your CIBC, 75 Journie Points for signing up using the app, and another 150 Points as a Welcome Bonus. So we got 3 free (Tiny stuff) Surprises that the kids and I picked up today from Ultramar (Funny we biked there, Haha).

        Thank you for checking my blog! Appreciate your support.

      • Ana
        March 21, 2021 at 6:07 pm

        Hi Mr.Dreamer, Hopefully you’ll be able to take your trip next year. I took my mom and daughter to Croatia the summer before Covid hit and we used that vacation to be more like tourists for once and didn’t spending all of our time visiting family. It’s a lovely place with the Mediterranean coastline, national parks and the mountainous areas.

      • Chrissy
        March 21, 2021 at 7:35 pm

        Ana—I didn’t know you were from the Balkans! What a cool part of the world that is. I would love to visit one day.

        Your mom and husband must both be very patient and flexible people (or else one of them is extra-forgiving, ha ha)! It isn’t easy living together long-term as they have, but it sounds like it’s been mutually beneficial in your situation.

        And how amazing is it that your mom and kids have had so much time together? I think that part of multi-generational living is often overlooked, but it’s one of the best benefits.

      • Mr. Dreamer
        March 21, 2021 at 10:22 pm

        Ana, Croatia is SUPER WONDERFUL! I call it “Waterfalls’ paradise”. I am glad the government is now putting more restrictions to protect the parks. Plitvice Lakes Park was really overcrowded. I know some people who too advantage of Covid time (No tourists) and visited Croatia in 2020 specially as it was one of few open countries without even a Covid test requirement.

        Hopefully soon enough we all will have time to travel again. So cool your daughter traveled with your mom!

      • Chrissy
        March 21, 2021 at 7:25 pm

        Hi Mr. Dreamer—it’s true, multi-generational households are not common in North America, even amongst cultures where it’s common in the homeland (ie Asian cultures).

        Very few Canadian-Asians in my generation live with older generations now, even if we grew up with it as children. As you and Ana have said, there are pros and cons. Everyone has to be flexible for it to work. But if it does, the benefits are priceless.

        Your Balkan road trip sounds amazing. I hope you’ll get to take it soon. 🤞

  • Reply
    Bob Wen
    March 21, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Ana, thank you for all the details on your spending. That is indeed a bigger house than you will probably need in the future. Having said that, when you have kids, it’s good (or perhaps not) to have a spare bedroom or two for them to move back into when they find themselves between relationships, or, when you’re having the grandkids sleepover. Perhaps you can even rent one or two rooms out when the kids move out to help pay for the big house? Then again, if you didn’t have a big house, then you wouldn’t need to rent out rooms!

    A way to size the cost of the house as an early retired couple, is to look at how much of your wealth will be required to cover the costs. I estimate that the house costs are about $5,000 a year more than they would be if you downsized (maintenance, heating, and property tax). Using the 4% Rule, you will need an additional $125,000 in your investments to cover that extra cost.

    I recommend watching “Playing with FIRE: The Documentary”. On iTunes it’s $4.99 to rent, $9.99 to buy. You can find the trailer on YouTube: https://youtu.be/kD8uNm5ck0Q

    All the best on your journey to FIRE.

    • Reply
      Ana
      March 22, 2021 at 4:14 am

      Hi Bob,
      I’ve watched Playing with Fire and really enjoyed it.
      I think you’ve done a good estimate of the current extra costs of a larger home in our area. I’m not going to tell my husband that number right now though lol. He would just say – no problem I’ll save the extra $125,000 and nothing has to ever change.
      I doubt we would ever rent rooms but:
      1- we’ve had homestay students twice over the years (just like Chrissy has done), and maybe we would do that again.
      2 – I think there’s a strong chance our kids will live at home while they go to university as we have 2 good universities in town. For most average degrees there is no need to move far away and go to a different Canadian university. I’ve read some good articles about all Canadian universities being fairly equal to each other etc vs US colleges where “which school you go to can really make or break your career”. Obviously specialist degrees are different and they may need to move. We’ve also told our kids that if they do residence etc – they are definitely paying for that on their own. Some would argue they would be missing out on the residence experience etc but I think they would survive (we parents both did!). I also think they would be able to do the math and make a sound judgement either way for themselves. (Sometimes I think my 10 year old is the only kid in his class who knows what a defined benefit pension is and how much his parents wish they had one! They now ask if potential careers will have a DB and how much they would pay. 😉

      • Chrissy
        March 23, 2021 at 12:12 am

        Hi Bob—those are excellent points about the advantages of a bigger home and ways to offset the costs. However, you’re also right that perhaps it would be better to have a smaller house to start! I guess Ana will just have to continue being patient as she works on that with her husband. 😉

        I also loved Playing With FIRE. My kids watched it with me and enjoyed it. My husband was away at the time so didn’t see it. I know it would be a hard sell to get him to watch it though! He’s on board with FIRE, but has zero interest in any FIRE content.

        However, it would be a great way to introduce FIRE to someone who’s somewhat curious or open to the ideas.

        Ana—my husband is the same. If it’s something he wants, he’s more than happy to work longer just to pay for it (e.g. his classic car). The car, plus a list of other things he wanted to spend more on in retirement, added two years to his mandatory working life. But he was more than happy to do that. We all have different priorities, and as he said to me: it’s him who has to work longer, not me!

        I think it’s awesome and hilarious that your 10YO is so financially educated already! I hope he finds his way to a DB pension one day! 😂

  • Reply
    Family Money Saver
    March 22, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    We’re in a similar situation but I think your costs are actually pretty low all things considered. Particularly with six people in the household! Even with a larger house, I think that’s a very reasonable essential cost base.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 23, 2021 at 12:17 am

      Hi Family Money Saver—I agree that Ana’s costs are very reasonable, given her large household. Also, two of her kids are adult-sized, which means adult-sized meals, clothing, etc.

      Large house aside, she and her husband have done a really good job of optimizing just about everything. Clearly, they’re doing a lot of things right, to be in the successful financial situation they’re in!

  • Reply
    Ana
    March 23, 2021 at 10:59 am

    Ana and Chrissy, thank you for sharing this great interview. Fantastic job staying focused on FIRE while juggling kids, school and ongoing expenses. My husband and I are making improvements to our home knowing we’ll probably downsize once the kids go away to college in a few years. But, we get to enjoy it now as a family.

    Love how you’ve struck a sweet balance between living in the present and preparing for the future!

    • Reply
      Ana
      March 23, 2021 at 11:27 am

      Thanks Ana.
      Good luck with your Renos and downsizing adventures. Sounds like you’re just a few years ahead of us.

      • Chrissy
        March 23, 2021 at 2:40 pm

        Hi Ana (@ Goat Dog Simple)—it makes so much more sense to do the renos while you’re still living in and enjoying the house. I know so many people who finally make renos when they decide to sell. The heartbreaking thing is they don’t get to enjoy it… and even worse, the new owners often tear out or redo the renos anyway!

        Thanks for reading, commenting on, and sharing Ana’s interview!

  • Reply
    MoneyAsian
    March 23, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    I came across your blog and I got really interested in all your content! Good job Chrissy.
    Well, I think the key thing is the housing cost. I think that’s how she manages her expense under $45,000. I should look into buying a house. The bad news is the real estate market in Vancouver is getting crazier!
    Please keep posting ‘HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO LIVE’ series 🙂

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      March 24, 2021 at 4:52 pm

      Hi again MoneyAsian—I’m honoured that you’re reading my content and took the time to leave a couple of comments. Thank you!

      It’s true, when you’ve paid off your house, it does help decrease the annual expenses quite a bit. However, as the opportunity cost shows, there’s a hidden cost to having a paid-off house. Regardless, Ana and her husband have done extremely well with their money decisions. Very few people pay off their homes at such a young age (and especially not a larger, nicer home like they have).

      It’s an unfortunate reality that Vancouver real estate just keeps getting crazier. I wish there was more we could do for those who want to enter the market but are unable to due to the exorbitant costs. 🙁

  • Reply
    Fringe Doc
    June 15, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    I’ll keep it brief so as not to overlap with the many other excellent and insightful comments. One teensy criticism / question I have is about the “furnace insurance.” I found that a bit baffling, and not really in keeping with the theme of many of the other expenses. Conventional wisdom is that (non-mandatory) insurance is appropriate for people who might be financially sunk if the insured object were to catastrophically fail. This does not seem to apply to this particular situation. Mathematically, “the house always wins” when it comes to insurance (i.e. you’ll typically pay LESS in furnace maintenance than the cost of the insurance, but if you need the “feeling of security” of the insurance, you’d have to factor the intangible benefit into your calculation). This is similar to the thinking on “extended warranties” (especially if you are purchasing consumer electronics). If playing the lottery is “a tax on poor people,” then extended warranties are “a tax on people who are clueless and careless about how they treat their own property.”

    Anyway, just some thoughts. As others have said, the plan is generally quite impressive, especially given the number of people being supported.

    Good work.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 15, 2021 at 3:38 pm

      Hi Fringe Doc—your thoughts on insurance are spot-on. TBH, I’ve never before heard of furnace insurance, so I wasn’t sure if it’s perhaps a mandatory thing? Here in BC, I’ve also never encountered furnace rentals, but they seem to be the norm in Ontario. I figured this insurance may be linked to that. 🤔

      Your comments always make me laugh: extended warranties are “a tax on people who are clueless and careless about how they treat their own property.” 😂 I absolutely agree with you that “the house always wins” when it comes to insurance (extended warranties are the worst)! This is why we only insure for catastrophic losses, and certainly never for things that we can cover with regular cash flow.

      Thanks for the excellent comment. It’s always good to point out things that others may be missing. This is how we all learn!

    • Reply
      Ana
      June 15, 2021 at 7:02 pm

      Hello Fringe doctor,
      My mother actually pays for the furnace insurance. Lol. I actually don’t pay for it myself truly but I kept it in my plan. It’s a totally optional thing and yes – completely emotional and irrational.
      We’ve had a furnace break down on us twice in winter over the years and once it took 2 days before it got fixed (in our old house). Winters in a ontario are horrible IMO and I guess we’ve just been scarred by that experience. I’m this house, two years ago we had a repair man come over when our furnace wasn’t working in summer and had no clue what he was doing (can’’t always trust those reviews!) and he tried to charge us $690 for a “repair” that was unnecessary. I don’t want to go into all the long details of that story (it was truly ridiculous and that was a summer crisis actually because the furnace fan was in use with the AC). So that was the last straw when she insisted we get the “insurance” and now if I have any little problem “Reliance” (the company) comes quickly to my aid, and she pays for it. Plus they come do some regular maintenance which is equal to half of the cost. Sometimes it’s not worth arguing with a 70+ year old European grandma. 😉

      • Chrissy
        June 15, 2021 at 8:38 pm

        Hi Ana—thanks for coming back to reply to this! The rationale behind your furnace insurance sounds reasonable to me. Sometimes it’s worth paying for psychological peace and comfort, even if our math brain tells us it might not make sense. Also, I agree with Fringe Doc that a happy grandma is a very good thing! 😆

  • Reply
    Fringe Doc
    June 15, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Ana,

    That is an interesting and very valid explanation. I am based near Edmonton, AB … it’s not NWT, but still gets pretty cold. I have several back-up systems in place for furnace failures.

    1. Invest in 2 or 3 heater fans. They can be strategically placed around the house as needed. Yes, there is a phantom load when they are left plugged in. One application (which my wife had to use when this happened to us and I was a way on a field exercise) is to pile the family into a smaller bedroom or “interior” room (sometimes even a walk-in closet will do). A single small heater fan can provide sufficient heat to sleep in comfort. The second application is to put a couple of them in your basement or at strategically located points, and put them on “frost saver” mode (or whatever it’s called). When you are travelling / away from home, as long as you have electricity, the heater fans will come on automatically (in the event of furnace failure) to prevent your pipes from freezing.

    2. Propane powered “Mr. Buddy Heater” devices. You can power them from small 1 lb propane containers for convenience, or go “whole hog” and get an adaptor that lets you use a BBQ-size propane tank (this is what we did as a back-up heating source for an off-grid cabin we used to own). This will keep your house “survivably warm” even with no electricity. The downside is that this system is obviously manual. You can’t use this as a “failsafe” to prevent pipes from freezing.

    3. What about if you are away from home and there is a furnace failure and power outage SIMULTANEOUSLY? (or maybe the power outage by itself puts your furnace out of commission). I don’t have a great answer for this, other than our plan c) … which is to install battery powered temperature sensors that are monitored cellularly by our security company. (We also have “water bugs” that will detect unwanted levels of moisture)

    Admittedly, some of the above isn’t really “FI.” But having your pipes freeze when you are away is also financially less than ideal.

    If the above seems a bit excessive / paranoid … well … I discovered “prepping” before “FI” … and hilariously, these are often diametrically opposed. But sometimes a creative combination of both paradigms can provide a useful lens for solving problems and risk mitigation strategies.

    Sorry, this was longer than I intended.

    TL;DR – “If Grandma’s now happy, ain’t NObody happy.”

    I concur.

  • Reply
    Fringe Doc
    June 15, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    I apologize, the last bit should read “If Grandma’s NOT happy, ain’t NObody happy.” Sorry about that.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      June 15, 2021 at 8:49 pm

      No problem about the typo, Fringe Doc!

      Your suggestions to “self-insure” are fantastic. We’re very lucky in Vancouver to not have to worry quite as much should our heat die on us. However, it’s still important for us to think ahead, just in case. (It does drop below freezing at least once a year here!)

      LOL about prepping and FI being diametrically opposed. That can be true, but you could also say (as Jesse, one of my other interviewees stated): “A stitch in time saves nine.” It’s always wise to be prepared to a reasonable degree. (Maybe not to the level of a fully-stocked bunker, but to cover us for at least a few days without power, heat and water.)

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge and wisdom in your ever-entertaining fashion. 🙂

Leave a Reply