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I live on about $700 a month in Vancouver, BC, Canada!

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I live on about $700 a month in Vancouver, BC, Canada!

Postby Will N. Dowd » Wed Feb 01, 2012 5:59 am

I've seen some other posts about what it costs people to live in third world countries and some people don't believe how little others spend there compared to the first world. Please believe me, it is not hard to live incredibly cheaply, even in the first world. It all comes down to what you need, compared to what you want. Please read further, this is how I live cheaply in the first world, and I've become somewhat of a living legend at work and with friends based on how little I spend but how well I still live.

A few years ago, during the financial meltdown, I decided to drastically reduce what I owned, and what I spent. I wrote down a list of the stuff I own, my monthly expenses, and determined what can I sell, what expense can I eliminate, what expense that I can't eliminate can I reduce. I went through all my stuff and made a huge pile of it on and next to my desk and put on craigslist and various other online selling sites. I kept re-listing it all until my desk and the floor next to my desk was free. Took some time but it all eventually sold. I didn't discount it any further than my asking price either. I kept my price until all sold. Every time someone asked for a better price I told them that I had turned down offers for more than theirs, and they always quickly payed, worked every time.

Next I got rid of every monthly expense I didn't need. First to go was my Satellite TV subscription that cost $60 a month. I always used to watch it a lot, but felt guilty watching it because most of it is so stupid. Then when I didn't watch it I felt guilty for paying for it but not watching it, so the only solution was to get rid of it. I miss it occasionally, but it passes quickly. I now go to my local library which has thousands of DVD's and CD's for free, and has far more than i could ever possibly watch. Next was my bank fees, they were only $4 a month, but that's $48 a year I could get for free elsewhere, so I changed banks to a local credit union and get it for free. Why would I pay to get at my own money anyways?

I used to shop at only one chain grocery store for convenience, until I realized it was a rip off compared to the other chain grocery store which was a little further away but much cheaper. I then realized that cheaper chain grocery store is a rip-off compared to the little Persian and Chinese hole in the wall grocery stores around my place. By going to several different small stores and buying less, I now spend about $200 a month on food, or about $7 a day! I also stopped buying lunch at work and bring my lunch to work, saving even more.

Next up, cell phone. I was paying a very low $40 a month, but always had to call evenings and weekends to save the daytime minutes, and after doing some considerable research, I found a trick plan where a local company uses a cell providers own plan against it so I get unlimited minutes for $20 a month including everything, with no contract. Then I found a free long distance company that allows you to call up to 50 countries around the world for free. it even works with my unlimited local minutes so i get free local and long distance minutes to 50 countries for $20 a month. I also figured I don't need a watch since I always have my phone with me, and it tells time perfectly accurately since it gets a time signal, so I sold my watch.

Next up high-speed internet, where I was paying $40 a month. I cam up with an idea to get a very powerful wifi antenna and try to pick up the local library wifi from 2 blocks away and cancel my internet account. The antenna did pick it up, but I only got 2 bar strength and it wasn't fast enough. I called my internet provider and asked for a better deal. That $40 went down to $30, I said cancel it. It went down to $20, I said cancel it. It went down t $11, I said how about $5! They said $11 was the lowest they could go, so I said OK, deal. They said I could have it for a year for $11 a month, but a year has passed and my bills are still $11.

Next up was hair styling and haircuts. I thought to myself and said, why do I pay someone to cut my hair, but I shave my face by myself? Then I said, why do I stop shaving at my sideburns and have long hair on my head? The solution was simple, buy a clipper and do it myself. Hair was always a nuisance for me, I was just too shy to buzz it, but not anymore. I bought a set of unique Philips clippers with a unique directional head that lets you cut in any direction while still holding them normally. They cut in .5 millimeter increments and are multi-voltage and rechargeable. I now buzz my head down to 2mm once a week and haven't had a haircut I payed for in a long time. The freedom from never buying styling product for it, never paying for a hair cut and never having to spend time on styling it is amazing!

My next plan was to get rid of anything that is a cash cow, or needs to be constantly bought over and over again, as opposed to buying something once and being done with it. Example razor cartridges. They are a rip off. The solution is to get a safety razor which has blades that are about $4 for 10 of them. But I though it is still too much money and too much trouble to keep shaving every other day, so I decided to use the philips hair clipper on my beard also. So I trim my stubble down to 1.5mm twice a week and it looks neat and tidy, and saves more time and money. If I want a clean shave, Philips has a electric razor attachment . No more razor cartridges or safety razor blades.

I used to use those nose strips once a week to get rid of blackheads, and they were like a dollar each, way too much. Solution: I got a 10X magnifying mirror and a metal blackhead and white head extraction tool and now once a week after a shower they all come out easily. Magnifying mirror makes a huge difference, you can see everything and my skin looks much clearer and healthier now.

Next plan is to get rid of everything that needs batteries, besides proprietary ones and remote controls. So I'm selling my bluetooth mouse, and got a $12 wired one that I prefer. Then I had a battery powered ear and nose hair trimmer that sucks, so I found one called the platinum XL by groom-mate. It blows the battery powered one away and has a lifetime warranty, and mows through any hair in a few seconds, every man should have one. I'm selling my rechargeable batteries and charger.

Here's what I used to spend on average every month:

$163 Condo Maintenance Fees
$55 Property Tax
$60 Bell Satellite TV
$4 RBC Bank fees
$40 Koodo Cell phone
$400 Groceries and lunch
$40 Internet
$60 BC Medical Plan
$110 Translink 2 Zone bus pass
$40 Haircuts and products
$20 BC Hydro electricity and water
$7 Laundry
$100 Extras...
------------------------------------------
$1099 Total

Now:

$163 Condo Maintenance Fees (can't be reduced)
$55 Property Tax (can't be reduced)
$20 Magic Number Cell phone
$200 Groceries
$11 Internet
$60 BC Medical Plan (can't be reduced unless I am unemployed)
$110 Translink 2 Zone Bus Pass (can't be reduced or eliminated unless I quit my job)
$20 BC Hydro electricity and water
$5 Laundry
$55 Extras...
------------------------------------------------------------------
$699 Total

Extras are a few things I buy every now and then. Last month it was shoes, this month used CD's, 2 months ago ferry trip to visit parents, a few months ago, hair clippers. I don't drink, go to restaurants or go to the movies. So you see it is still possible to live very cheaply in the first world. You have to reduce everything you need, and get rid of everything you wanted, but don't need. I'm happier with less stuff and more money in the bank. I live on 1/6th of my after tax income. Most pay cheques go directly into a high interest savings account.

I put another large pile of stuff on my desk to sell 1 month ago. The pile is smaller and I am $332 richer last month from selling stuff from it. It was stuff I had but didn't need an don't even miss. I can't even remember what I sold, which is good because that means I didn't even care about it.

I'm always looking for more ways to reduce spending even further. I know that if I can live this cheaply here, i can live even cheaper than this in the third world when I become happier abroad!
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Postby ErikHeaven » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:14 am

Great post i have reduced down myself too.
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Postby jamesbond » Wed Feb 01, 2012 9:54 am

That's excellent, live below your means and you will be doing yourself a big favor! The more money you can save, the sooner you can retire and the sooner you can travel around the world and have fun! I am doing the same thing, next up for me is to move to a smaller and cheaper place. First I have to sell my place, which has depreciated in value about 25% since I bought it four years ago. Even though I put 20% down when I bought it, I will still have to come up with money when I sell it.
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Postby ryanx » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:10 pm

I enjoyed reading your post...i am thinking of visiting vancouver for a month just to get a feel for the place with a view to long term staying and investing...initially I will only stay for a month and then I have to return to my life in Taiwan. Do you have any pointers about confortable accommodation for a month/ which area which would make it easy to navigate the city by public transport and explore different areas...is looking for a room rental for a month off craigslist.Kijji the best option?

I am thinking April or May.

Thanks
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Postby Winston » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:42 pm

I've found that living on a budget isn't just about being skilled in knowing how to live cheaply. It's also a knack. Some people seem to have a "metaphysical" ability to draw the cheapest deals and bargains to them or find them by accident. It's hard to explain.

It also helps to be highly frugal minded and calculating, which many Chinese and Jews are.

Vancouver has a lot of foreign girls, but they are mostly polite and not very engaging, similar to the Pacific NW. They will chat with you for five minutes, but it's weird and awkward to try to take it beyond that. It doesn't feel natural. They don't exactly flirt back. It's more like a civil proper discussion, the kind you'd have in a Victorian prim and proper culture, very light and innocent.
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Postby Winston » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:45 pm

Will,
Do you live in a total ghetto place on $700 a month? I found a place in Reno for $70 a week once, but it was totally ghetto, like something from Harlem in the 70's. I would have felt like a degenerate there.
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Postby PaulB » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:54 pm

This isn't really $700 a month. Add what your condo would rent out for and that's the true cost.
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Postby Will N. Dowd » Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:03 pm

Winston wrote:I've found that living on a budget isn't just about being skilled in knowing how to live cheaply. It's also a knack. Some people seem to have a "metaphysical" ability to draw the cheapest deals and bargains to them or find them by accident. It's hard to explain.

It also helps to be highly frugal minded and calculating, which many Chinese and Jews are.

Vancouver has a lot of foreign girls, but they are mostly polite and not very engaging, similar to the Pacific NW. They will chat with you for five minutes, but it's weird and awkward to try to take it beyond that. It doesn't feel natural. They don't exactly flirt back. It's more like a civil proper discussion, the kind you'd have in a Victorian prim and proper culture, very light and innocent.


Yes, i pretty much gave up on Vancouver girls years ago. My last local GF was in 1996! since then it's all foreigners, they are a breath of fresh air! Canada is only maybe a little better than the USA, but still terrible for getting girls.
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Postby Will N. Dowd » Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:07 pm

Winston wrote:Will,
Do you live in a total ghetto place on $700 a month? I found a place in Reno for $70 a week once, but it was totally ghetto, like something from Harlem in the 70's. I would have felt like a degenerate there.


No, it's a nice place, I just payed off the mortgage in 8 years. It's a typical concrete high rise made in 1981. i have a 9th floor 1 bedroom condo facing south with a great south view of the city. I renovated a lot in 2002 when I bought it, and I take great care of it. It's much nicer than other suites in the building. It's worth $325,000 at last years evaluation. My Japanese ESL girlfriends that lived with me loved living here with me, and said they would do it again.
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Postby Will N. Dowd » Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:10 pm

PaulB wrote:This isn't really $700 a month. Add what your condo would rent out for and that's the true cost.


Sorry, not true. If I rented it out I would have to live somewhere else and pay for that, and local rents are what I would get for my place. If i lived abroad then I could live very cheaply and live off my rent, but then I wouldn't get the $$$ from my local job, so I would lose more money then.
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Postby Will N. Dowd » Tue Feb 14, 2012 9:11 pm

ryanx wrote:I enjoyed reading your post...i am thinking of visiting vancouver for a month just to get a feel for the place with a view to long term staying and investing...initially I will only stay for a month and then I have to return to my life in Taiwan. Do you have any pointers about confortable accommodation for a month/ which area which would make it easy to navigate the city by public transport and explore different areas...is looking for a room rental for a month off craigslist.Kijji the best option?

I am thinking April or May.

Thanks


I might be going to Philippines in May, so I might be interested in renting out my place while I'm gone. I'll keep you posted. It's close to transit, stores, banks, library, so a great place in a great spot.
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Postby PaulB » Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:29 am

Will N. Dowd wrote:
PaulB wrote:This isn't really $700 a month. Add what your condo would rent out for and that's the true cost.


Sorry, not true.

It is true. It's called opportunity cost. As a homeowner occupying your own home, you are paying rent to yourself.
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Postby Will N. Dowd » Wed Feb 15, 2012 1:17 am

PaulB wrote:
Will N. Dowd wrote:
PaulB wrote:This isn't really $700 a month. Add what your condo would rent out for and that's the true cost.


Sorry, not true.

It is true. It's called opportunity cost. As a homeowner occupying your own home, you are paying rent to yourself.


OK so please explain to me how I can rent it out, still live here in town with the same job, but pay way less in rent for the same sort of place.
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Postby PaulB » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:44 am

Will N. Dowd wrote:
PaulB wrote:
Will N. Dowd wrote:
PaulB wrote:This isn't really $700 a month. Add what your condo would rent out for and that's the true cost.


Sorry, not true.

It is true. It's called opportunity cost. As a homeowner occupying your own home, you are paying rent to yourself.


OK so please explain to me how I can rent it out, still live here in town with the same job, but pay way less in rent for the same sort of place.

You could rent it out and pay the same rent for the same sort of place. Effectively the same as what you're doing now.

Put it this way: if others were to move to Vancouver and live the same way you do, would it cost them $700 a month? No, it would be $700 + how much your condo would rent out for.

Do you get it now? If not, search "opportunity cost" on Google.
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Postby nativeco » Sun Jul 01, 2012 6:18 pm

Good for you. You obviously own your condo or pay nothing other than hoa fees and taxes. That gives you a HUGE advantage. I live on $698 a month in the usa-and it sucks! I could do the same cost saving measure you have-the hard part is finding shelter. Safe shelter. If you have no assistance it is next to impossible. I have lived with family and friends, but am now on the verge of being homeless. Nothing left to sell, only asset a working older car (so far!) which makes me feel like I still belong somewhat to the human race. It's a big expense though if it needs work. I try to drive it as little as possible to save spending on gas. I feel isolated, despised, and unloved by my family. They don't get what constantly living on $2 (minus my car) a day is like. They can hardly imagine getting enough food for $2 a day (me & my dog who saves my life every day), let alone trying to provide shelter, clothing, medical needs, etc. with that same amount. It is impossible and very depressing.
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