Addressing the naysayers

-Written by Cel

This has been a crazy week for us – in addition to a front page story on The Province (and cross-published to the Edmonton Journal), coverage on Huffington Post Canada – we also got a (brief) live interview on CTV’s national news broadcast during primetime coverage!   Someone at work told me that our story is tapping into the cultural zeitgeist, and I have to agree that our story really seems to have resonated with people all across the country.

We’ve also had some backlash; some people have objections to what we’re saying.  There seem to be four main ones:

1. Co-op housing is unrealistic, and if you didn’t live in a co-op you could never save money.

It’s true that there are very few co-op units relative to the population of Vancouver.  Of course, if more people were interested in co-op living, then the number of co-ops would increase proportionally.

However, that is not really relevant – even if we were not living in a co-op, we’d simply be renting a relatively cheap apartment in the West End or another area downtown.  In fact, when we moved to our co-op 3.5 years ago, our rent actually increased as a result!  We moved to the co-op for reasons other than financial, such as: stability of housing situation, community, and downtown living.

Even if we were renting a $900 apartment in the West End, then it simply means we’d be paying an extra $80 a month each – which would have very little effect on our finances.

2. Your life must suck / will suck after you retire

This objection seems to revolve around the point that if you don’t eat at restaurants or drink alcohol, your life must suck.  We don’t do those things, but here are some things that we do:

-Hiking

-Biking

-Concerts

-Comedy shows

-Local and international (mostly international) travel
-Reading

-Video games

-Ballroom dance

-Dungeons and Dragons (an ongoing weekly campaign)

-Symphonies

-Dance performances

-Movies

-Musicals

-Hanging out with friends

-Sewing

-Baking

You might be thinking that symphonies or buying video games cost a lot of money – but that is not the case.  For example, we buy discounted symphony tickets, and here are my strategies to keep my video game costs low.  

As for post-retirement, we plan to do a lot of slow travelling, where we live somewhere for a few months at a time, in a proper apartment, soaking up the local culture.  Since we have no obligations, we can travel by the cheapest method, etc.  We also intend to pursue our creative passions like writing and other hobbies.

3. You’re lying!

This seems to be more from people who have not visited our blog and seen our financial breakdown.  However, there have been some people who insist that we must be lying, even after being provided with figures.  I had one person claim that I was lying about paying $28 per month for Internet – even after showing a screenshot of my invoice!

Of course, as our blog readers, you would already be aware of what our numbers are and how they work.

4.  Lastly, we’ve seen a few people say that they would never want to retire at 40, because they want to have kids, or buy a home, etc. 

The beauty of our lifestyle and the practices we advocate is that it’s not limited to early retirement.  We understand that many people don’t want to retire early.

What these people don’t understand is that no matter what your goal is, if it requires a lot of money, then being frugal can only help.  Whether you want to buy a home, or be a stay-at-home parent for a few years and raise a family, cutting expenses and living frugally can make that dream a reality.

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29 Comments

  1. I think what you two are doing is great. Please do not listen to the naysayers, they are just jealous of your situation. I am a big fan of financially smart individuals and I hope you two keep it up. Great job = )

  2. I read your story in my local newspaper and I thought most of the frugal living tips were quite common sense and practical. But I do have an honest question for you: What do you feed your cat? I have one cat and I simply can’t feed her for less than $40.00/month. I feed her a high quality brand of cat food, but even if I bought a low-cost store brand, I don’t think I could properly feed and care for her for less than $60.00/month because there is also the cost of litter, toys, treats, and annual veterinary care. Thankfully she is young and healthy, and as an indoor cat, she’s not as vulnerable to accidents or injuries as an outdoor cat would be. What tips do you have for people who have pets?

  3. Don’t let the haters get you down- the faux-millionares who think you can buy happiness by maxing out your credit cards every Friday night or the anti-poverty types who insist that this place is impossibly expensive and your story runs counter to their narrative. Nothing you have talked about is so crazy that it should be disbelieved or anger people who chose to live beyond their means. Even the idea that you hang dry your clothes offends some of them. The problem is them, not you.

  4. More power to you! However, 1 bedroom apartments in Vancouver are much more expensive than $725.00. We are talking about over $1000.00++ -especially in the downtown core. The reality is that if you were single, an apartment with all necessary expenses would be a bit tough.
    There are also other expenses that need to be factored in. Unless you are lucky to have insurance, you’ll have dental expenses, physical maintenance as you get older (chiropractor, medications etc.) Do you belong to a gym during the cold wet months? What about clothing? Most people do not have the luck to live close to where they work. They have to take transit. With a 3 zone system, monthly passes add up. These are some of the realities of living in Vancouver.
    I am not trying to put down your lifestyle. You are a great example in frugality. We can all cut down. It is important to not live beyond what you can afford and to not rack up debt. But, you must realize that you are lucky too. Your incomes must be better than minimum wage, you are healthy and young & your rent is quite low for Vancouver standards. BTW, I live in a co-op and our lowest rent for a one bedroom is over $925.00. (I am hoping that your co-op is not in need of repair. If so, say goodbye to your $725.00 rent. It will go up substantially!!)

    • I’ll try to address all your points.

      1. $725 is not difficult to find, and this place was in fact a significant rent increase for us – we were willing to pay because it’s a gorgeous building in a great location, but it was one of the more expensive options we considered.
      2. For a single person, the Living Balance properties are a great option – private micro suites that rent from around $400-$600, all over the downtown core. So as a single person rent would go from $365 + $14 internet (we each pay half of current rent and internet) to around, say, $500 internet included, which is an increase but not life-changing – we would still be able to walk to work, etc.
      3. Get insurance. It’s not that expensive.
      4. We don’t belong to a gym and don’t intend to.
      5. We don’t buy a lot of clothes. So far this year we’ve spent $13.42 on socks, and that’s it. Clothes last a LOT longer when you hang everything to dry, and I’m completely capable of doing all basic repairs – rips, holes, hemming, sewing buttons back on, alterations, as well as sewing new clothing as needed.
      6. Living close to work is not luck. You don’t get a letter in the mail one day saying “Congratulations! You’ve won a lease downtown!”. You choose where you live. There are many co-ops and private rentals in the downtown, gastown, chinatown, and west end neighbourhoods that are comparable to what we have. Even if you can’t find a place downtown, you definitely do not need to live three transit zones away from work, unless you are utterly incapable of using things like Craigslist, newspapers, and a telephone. This picture you paint is not “the reality of living in Vancouver”, this is “the reality of lacking some critical basic life skills which all but guarantees a life of poverty in Vancouver or elsewhere”.
      7. We don’t have to worry about our rent going up substantially – if it does, we ditch and move to a cheaper place. It’s really that simple.
      8. Luck is not a factor. Nothing we have came as a result of luck.

      I think that covers it all.

  5. No actually, I think that your answers are reactionary.

    1 & 2. Suites at that price ARE difficult to find. I don’t know where you are getting your information from. I have had 1st hand information from CMHC as well as talking with property management companies around the downtown core and have looked at Craiglist. Your rent is an anomaly. BTW, try living in a micro suite for more than 10 years.
    3. Insurance is not a lark. For people on a tight budget, it is another added expense. It is 12 months of added expenses. Also, many forms of health services are not covered by insurance – as well as medications.
    4. Your choice to not go to a gym in the cold weather. It was just a question.
    5. If you can only buy socks for a year, then good on you. Most people cannot – even if they buy second hand or at low budget stores. Darn and mend away.
    6. I didn’t say that living downtown close to your work was luck. I said that you were lucky – lucky to have low rent, jobs that are obviously not minumum wage. It is simplistic and naive to think that people who don’t do what you do lack critical life living skills. Life factors include health, where you were born, your family support, schooling and race. People do not choose to live in poverty. They may not have the skills, education or support to get to where you have gotten to.
    7. Most people get tired of ditching and moving. You are in your 20’s. Did it done it. You’ll tire as you age.

    Your lifestyle is commendable. As I have said, people should live more frugally and not incur debt. I wish you the best with your blog. It is one story about living in Vancouver. However, it is not a story that is always possible for other people.

    • 1 & 2: Suites in that price range are easy to find. This comes from spending my entire adult life in Vancouver in several apartments, and keeping an eye on Craigslist to see what the rental market is doing over the last nine years. Besides co-ops, these places are clearly advertised and widely available all over the city.

      3. Truly low income people qualify for a lot of medical subsidies, from heavily subsidized/free MSP to Pharmacare to 10 heavily discounted physio visits a year. You can have dental work done at the UBC dental school or up to 40% less than other places. This would apply to anyone in actual hardship.

      5. We spent $151 on clothing in 2013, a little over $10/month, which worked out to socks, underwear, and a few tops and pants for two people, as well as a new swimsuit for me. Clothing lasts a long time if you take care of it properly. If you need to buy new clothes constantly, you’re doing something wrong – use less/gentler cleaners, wash a bit less frequently (obviously wash something if it’s actually dirty, but many things can be worn a few times), and hang stuff to dry. You don’t even need to buy super high quality clothes, just don’t actively destroy them.

      6. You did mention luck – “Most people do not have the luck to live close to where they work. “. I was pointing out that it’s not luck to live close to work, it’s choice. I’ve moved several times to be closer to work. Lifestyle design.

      Not being able to manage your money and getting ripped off on basic necessities like housing are clear indicators that someone needs to work on their basic life skills, right along with the person who doesn’t know how to boil water or needs their mom to do laundry for them. Actually, not being able to cook or do laundry would be significantly less harmful, as they would not lead to a guaranteed life of struggle like the other two would.

      7. Most people get tired of ditching and moving because they accumulate piles of junk and clutter. I wouldn’t want to move that either! Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to that. Personally, I have no particular desire to live in one place versus another.

      • I am fortunate to live in a Co Op like you two and pay well below market value to live in a beautiful building in a great neighbourhood. However I had to earn at least 3x my rent to qualify for membership, fill out many forms (and ensure I update them annually), and attend numerous interviews before I was accepted. I then had to wait three years for an available suite. During my wait I searched Craigslist, UBC AMS Rents line, obscure papers etc. for a 1 bedroom apartment and was unable to find anything for less than $950 that was not a coop or shared accommodation. The apartments I found for $950 (2011) had security issues, and were ALL on the bedbug registry. So I strongly disagree with your claim that apartments for $750 a month can “easily” be found in Vancouver. Can you prove it? See if you can find more than one listed next month?

      • For $750 a month, a 1 bedroom apartment is hard to find. But we never claimed that 1 bedroom apartments are only $750. A lot of bachelor apartments and basement suites are though, or you can get micro-suites that are even cheaper (but have downsides in exchange for the cheap price).

        For instance, these micro-suites are under $600 a month: http://www.livingbalance.ca/rental/635-east-hastings-street/
        The washrooms are shared, but you have a private kitchenette and private apartment.

        Just take a look on Craigslist, I saw multiple private apartments for $750 right now. Of course, a lot of them were small bachelor suites or basement suites. But you can’t expect to get a spacious 1 bedroom high-rise for $750 a month.

  6. I’m looking forward to keeping up-to-date with your blog! Kudos to you, and avoid the naysayers, indeed!

    I am also an advocate of frugality, however am not ready to make the extreme plunge that you both have. That being said, what you are doing is commendable and certainly not for everyone.

    I think the issue(s) that Nicky was trying to address, is that upbringing, lifestyle, and circumstance doesn’t allow for everyone to make these decisions (even if they could.) For example, many people with physical or mental disorders need a strong advocate to act on their behalf – and sourcing all of these things may be beyond their reach.

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Ruven, glad you enjoy our blog.

      I agree, there are certainly circumstances where it is not practical to do everything that we do. However, that is a quite small percentage of the population. Our advice is not aimed towards disadvantaged people struggling with medical conditions (though it couldn’t hurt, if possible for them to do).

      Instead, our blog is more aimed towards the average citizen that is unhappy about the high cost of living in Vancouver (or other cities). People who are already high-spenders, perhaps trapped in a seemingly insurmountable cycle of debt, and think that there is no way out. We want to let these people know that you know what, there is another option. You can lower your spending, you can become more frugal, and you can do it while still maintaining a normal urban lifestyle.

      -Cel

  7. Saw your article in the paper. My wife and I live way more extravagantly then you folks (owning our own home, kids, dining out, etc.) and we also save a lot more, but we also make about double what you do and would not be able to save as much on your wages. Neither of us have expensive hobbies–and this is huge. Neither do we spend much on haircuts, clothes, or Starbucks. I like how you have cut corners. I constantly vacillate between splurging on something and saving for several weeks at a time. It seems to work for us. . .that being said. . .I think life is to be enjoyed. I drove shitty cars until I was 40 and I still maintain that cars are a HUGE money pit. For most people an old car would do for their needs, for others no car is needed. The money people waste on cars is absurd. That being said, I absolutely love having a new car now that I have one. I realize it is a luxury that I am paying for, but I am prepared to do that because I want to enjoy a nice ride and something reliable. Same with owning our own home. I want a home. I want a place for my kids to call their own. It’s another emotional purchase, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Renting for a family is tough. My point is that you CAN save and have anything you want, but you can’t have EVERYTHING you want. We have been lucky, have had good parents that helped with our schooling, but we have made a ton of sacrifices and had student loans. I waited until 40 to have a new car, but by delaying it I got a lot of other financial stuff in order, like paying down the mortgage. Anyway, good luck. I wouldn’t want to live quite as cheap as you folks. . .it would drive me crazy. . .but we live well below our means and others should also. We are raising our kids to be financially responsible, and we also plan to help them through school and as much as we can. Kids are very expensive, but I want them around when I get older. Being a parent is the most rewarding experience of my life. Debt is a disease. Good luck to you.

  8. I’ve just read your post and got very excited! Spent considerable time looking excitedly through Craigslist for a one-bedroom in the downtown or West End for $775/mo or less. No luck 😦 Can you please show me how you’re filtering to find these, and what you come up with??

    • Keep an eye on Craigslist, since they don’t come up every day and get grabbed up pretty quick. Also, a lot of places in the west end advertise by putting out signs, so a stroll through neighbourhoods can help.

      Some of the co-ops in your price range are Pacific Heights ($724) and Four Sisters ($754), Lore Krill is slightly above ($732, going up to $805 in a few months), Amicae is also around $800. All of them have websites except Lore Krill, which you can find pretty easily, so I would get some applications in. Good luck!

  9. Hey guys! I just wanted to say how cool it is that you will be retiring before you’re 40! That is such an amazing goal that I have no doubt you will reach and I’m super excited to have discovered your blog. Thanks for all the tips! Don’t listen to the naysayers, they typically don’t have any dreams of their own and enjoy pulling other people down to their level. Nothing is impossible! Sending positive thoughts from East Van 🙂

  10. I like your blog. I came from MMM after seeing you on the forum. Everything you’re doing is possible, it all comes down to you’re positive attitude. Thank you for putting yourselves out there. Jay.

  11. Bravo!! And I agree with the comments about ignoring the naysayers. I feel bad for them as they simply don’t see there are many options out there and we don’t have to take the “standard” route to happiness ie. cars, weekly trips to the mall, paying for large apartments/houses etc.

    I posted on a CBC article once and had replies that were similar ie. “you’re lying … there’s no way a monthly hydro bill can be $18.00” etc.

    We’re living a similar lifestyle to you … small place downtown and walking distance to work so there’s no need for a car or transit passes. We’re both on part-time hours because life is too short to spend working all the time and all you need to do in order to cut the hours is simply spend less on the stuff you don’t really need anyway.

    And you’re right, you don’t have to deprive yourself or not enjoy the great things on offer here … we see movies, go to concerts, get those same crazy deals on symphony tickets, take little getaways to Seattle or Victoria and overseas trips every couple of years. It’s totally do-able! It’s all a matter of taking a long hard look at your spending and realizing that in many cases, a great deal of your money is being wasted.

    When I hear what some people are spending on housing, endlessly eating out, drinking, cars etc, I cringe!

    Simplify, downsize, work less and enjoy your time more!!! When you’re 80 and in that hospital bed, you’re not going to wish you’d worked more or bought more crap!

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