Sometimes people tell me: “Philip, it’s all fine for you, but you can’t do this stuff with a family and car based culture”. That makes a lot of sense to me: in many ways, being a single, young person is the easiest way to keep costs on the low end.
That is why I was very happy to ask Nicola, a listener who called in about his story on how he biked and lived in his tent in backyards to travel Europe to tell me more on how he, as a married man with a child, living in the sometimes less than hospitable of Montreal, Canada, find ways to work towards financial independence.
Housing and transport are the two biggest expenses in a US household, and that is what came up in our discussion too.
Nicola has chosen to live within walking distance of his job, grocery store and daycare. He estimates that he walks about 10 km (6.2 miles) each day, which he finds a pleasurable range. Even in Montreal’s -20 °C (-2 °F) winter days, all it takes is a good jacket.
In the summer, he uses a local bike share, costing him 55 USD/season – this way he doesn’t have to worry about maintenance and security. When he needs some extra range, he’ll use public transport or an occasional car share in the late evenings – a more efficient system than individual car ownership, which sometimes means cars stay idle for 95% of their lifetime.
With these strategies, he manages to meet his transport needs without owning a car, for a fraction of the cost.
Nicola spends about a third of his income on housing, while staying in a central location. His philosophy: he sticks to the old way of looking at space, and thus has a much smaller place than is the standard. Many houses built at the turn of the century that were meant for families with five children or more are now occupied by couples with no children, or one child.
He also rents – he’s seen many renovation costs go out of control, with expensive upgrades in our one area making spilling over into other rooms just to maintain a uniform look.
So far, he’s gotten no comments about his house. 🙂
Nicola Berube is a French language journalist for La Presse in Canada, and is working towards bridging the English and French personal finance worlds, for instance with his interview of Mr. Money Moustache.