How I Paid $200 a Month Rent Living In Vancouver BC

by Dan Johnston

How I Paid $200 a Month Rent Living In Vancouver BC

In this post I’m going to share some ways to massively cut down on your expenses.

There was a comment on one of my YouTube videos from Daniel James:

“I would love to hear your thoughts how one supports themselves financially while going all in for their dream if they are living paycheck to paycheck. Thank you.”

We’ve made content on this before where I’ve talked about working a crappy job to earn basic money while you are pursuing your dream, something that doesn’t take all your mental energy and doesn’t risk pulling you into it.

But on top of that, I want to talk about how to massively cut down on expenses because if you already have a crappy, full-time job that you’re living paycheck to paycheck on, then you’re probably not going to be able to switch over to a part-time job and earn as much or more money.

So what do you do to cut down on expenses?

Housing

Let me just say right off the bat here that I am kind of a badass master when it comes to living on the cheap – maximum lifestyle on a moderate income.

Around 2013, after my epic 2012 year where I drove multiple supercars, travelled all over, lived in New York, Costa Rica, Europe, a friend of mine said to me:

“You know what, on 50 grand a year, you live like someone who earns half a million. If someone were to look at your social media or just know what you were doing, they would assume you were a millionaire based on how you live!”

And I took that as a massive compliment.

One reason that I’m able to do that is getting creative with finding housing with how I set up my life. And I want to give you some of those examples here.

The last year or so I lived in Vancouver, maybe the last two years actually, I was paying rent of about somewhere between $200 and $400 a month.

Now, keep in mind, Vancouver’s one of the most expensive cities in the world. Keep in mind, I lived on the 16th floor and they have a beautiful high rise with a pool, and a gym in Yaletown maybe too. Yaletown’s a very nice area, maybe 200 meters to the seawall where I would run in the mornings along the ocean.

This was a pretty badass living arrangement.

How did I do it?

Well, it all started when I rented this apartment years, years before.

I’ll save you the backstory, but basically: I moved into this apartment with my brother many years before, and we were sharing the rent.

The rent was $1700 and we were splitting it. So at some point, he moved out, I lived there alone for a while, and just paid the whole rent like an idiot.

Even though I was still in debt, I was like: Yeah, look at me, I have this massive apartment, right?

It was a two bedroom, plus a den with a big living room.

Now, over time, I had a roommate come in. And then I realized that there was this den, which was surrounded by windows, it was a beautiful room – it was just tiny.

I was thinking maybe I could rent this debt out.

So I put the den up and that rented for $600, the other bedroom was renting for $800.

Hmm…So now my rent is $300. That’s kind of amazing.

Whether or not the apartment was crowded, depends on where you’re looking at it from – in New York, people would have three people sharing one bedroom, let alone a whole apartment!

Then eventually, when I got myself into a bit of financial trouble, I ended up moving from the master bedroom into the middle bedroom. And so the master bedroom rented for more.

So I think I was down to paying like $100 or $200 a month rent to be living in this place, and living in a good area, having my own space, all that. Now, I can probably hear objections coming in, people saying:

Well, that’s not fair.

Or I couldn’t do that.

Or I don’t want to live with other people.

That’s all cool.

But I’m just telling you how I was able to massively cut down my living expenses.

And I will tell you, this will work in probably just about any city in the world. You rent a bigger apartment and then you sublet the rooms to people who don’t want to commit, don’t have furniture, maybe they’re only in the city for three months or six months.

Ultimately, when I put those rooms up for rent, I had a dozen people, I had people arguing and competing for the room saying:

I’ll give you ski passes.

Oh, I’m a great cook.

Oh, I love to clean!

Because the price I was charging was very fair and the room was very desirable.

So if you see getting or, I should say, you see benefiting financially as ripping off other people without considering the fact that they’re getting value, and it’s a free market, then that’s probably something going on in your head where you feel bad about earning money, or profiting or whatever that is, and I totally understand where that feeling comes from.

But it’s probably not serving you in life or business to be thinking that way.

Phones & Contracts

Next thing up I want to cover is around phones and contracts. And then I’m going to get back actually to housing because I have a lot more to add to that on ways to further cut down your costs.

If you are paying $60-80-100 a month for your phone, you’re crazy.

I got an email from someone the other day. They are living on roughly $500 a month and something like $70 of it was going to their phone plan because they need a phone.

That is insane.

I spent four months in Spain when I had money without a phone plan.

Because there’s WiFi everywhere and you can call everyone on WhatsApp anyhow. And you can get a Virtual Phone number with a service like Google Voice for free or a service like Skype for, I don’t know, $2 or $5 a month.

And you know, if you are so important that you need data everywhere you go and not just like a gigabyte for basic maps, but you need like five gigabytes to be what? Streaming YouTube?

You don’t need an expensive phone plan.

Even my plan now I paid $20 a month but I’ve been planning to go as low as like $5-10 a month with just the most basic data and call or pay as you go on calling.

Every country is different. I totally get that.

But get the minimum phone plan possible. Use WiFi calling, minimize your expenses here.

And if you’re in one of those countries where phone companies love to screw you…Canada, my home is the worst in the world in screwing people – the telecommunication companies are just evil, the US isn’t much better…

If you’re in one of those countries where they try to lure you into signing like a three-year contract on a $70 a month plan just because you get the newest iPhone at a discount – don’t do it.

Buy a phone.

Cash off Amazon.

Something like $200-300 – a basic Android smartphone that has everything. My phone now was 300 euros. For the Americans – that’s roughly 350 US dollars.

It has a great camera and everything works awesome. It’s one of those Huawei or whatever, so I’m sure I’m being spied on by the Chinese. But that’s not any worse than being spied on by the Americans in my books. Ultimately, it does everything I need and it’s actually a really fast, awesome phone.

I have no contract, I can change wherever I go. I don’t have to keep paying this plan. And that’s now when I have a good income and I have money to spare, but why would I waste it on this kind of phone plan?

I’ve seen as I’ve travelled where I’ve been in more developing economies, not third world countries, but places where the average wage might be $1000 or $1500 a month and people are on like the latest iPhone and they’re working at McDonald’s or something.

What are you doing?!

Your phone is more than a month of your wages.

Yeah, but I want the latest iPhone. So I can Instagram myself.

It’s so frustrating to me.

Ultimately, you have to make sacrifices somewhere.

So if you’re reading this, and I’m talking about housing, and you’re like:

Yeah, but I don’t want to move.

Cool.

Yeah, but I love my phone.

Cool, that’s fine.

But keep working that shitty job you don’t want to have. Keep working paycheck to paycheck, keep being stressed out. Keep being disappointed that you’re not living your dream because you don’t feel like moving, because you want to keep your phone because it’s nice, because phone plans are complicated.

And I don’t want to be disparaging here, but it’s insane to me how many people I talked to whose monthly fixed costs are so high and then they’re talking about how they can’t do their own business or do something they love because they’re spending money on all kinds of other things.

Got Waste?

I just generally don’t like waste.

It’s not necessarily being a cheap thing, although I’m a bit of a cheap guy sometimes. But I hate waste.

Are you buying food and like a third of it is getting thrown out? Apparently, half of all food in the US gets thrown out and wasted.

Are you buying clothing that you don’t really wear, but it was on sale, but you don’t really need it? Clothing is another big one like food. We often buy stuff we don’t necessarily need.

My rule with clothing is try to buy as little as possible and when I do, aim for quality, something that will last many years, something that I will like, something that will really work for me.

Or on the other hand, go like really cheap and basic. Get a nice fitted white T-shirt for five bucks and just wear that as your base layer in the summer. Save yourself the extra $30 on buying, you know, some fancy branded shirt and keep it really basic.

Ultimately, you’ll be more attractive to other people in a basic item of clothing when you’re really happy and fulfilled and have tons of freedom than having like a little Nike Swoosh on your shirt or whatever.

Now let’s jump back to housing and where you are living.

If you own a car, you should stop owning a car. That’s all I’m going to say.

I love cars. My very first job was at BMW. I then worked as a valet driver. If you see me one day driving a Ferrari, it will be for two reasons. One, because I really love cars and driving. And two, because I’m old and impotent and using it to date younger women. But it will be both reasons.

Really though, I love cars, but I do not want to own a car. They are a waste of money. They raise stress levels, they add a lot of time often – finding parking, dealing with insurance, dealing with the stress of where you park your car if you’re in a big city.

Often when I was back home in Vancouver, people would praise me because I lived right in the center of the city and they’re like: How do you afford this?

And this wasn’t even getting into the whole roommate situation, but just generally where I lived and when I was living there alone, my rent was $1700 – I’d look at this person and they live off in some pretty lame suburb, like I would never want to be there. Maybe they liked it because of the drive-through McDonald’s or something. But I would never want to live there. But they were paying like $1300 dollars to live there. And their car was costing them like $600, because they were driving into the city every day to go to work, probably even costing them more than that. And that’s not even including their time.

People waste so much money on cars in terms of time, the commuting, in terms of gas, in terms of parking, and just generally insurance and the car and what really blows my mind and why I know that it’s a psychological thing.

The amount of cars happening in places like Prague and Moscow – apparently, in Moscow, there’s 20,000 new cars a month or added to the road or something like that. Moscow has one of, if not the best metro systems in the world. It also has some of the worst traffic in the world. And yet, people are like:

Why don’t I buy a car because it’s a status symbol so I can spend three hours a day sitting in traffic like an idiot.

Instead of either living by a metro station or living in the center of the city.

It’s crazy to me.

So if you want to cut down your cost of living, live where you need to spend your time.

If you’re self-employed, that’s awesome. You can work from home, maybe live somewhere where there’s like a nice community, so you don’t go totally insane working from home.

Or if you have a job, live by that place that you need to go, live by your office or find a job close to where you live.

I have to give some credit out to what I say to Mr. Money Mustache. I was listening to him on the Chris Ryan podcast and he talks about really cutting down expenses. It just reminded me of this – I will always spend a bit more money to live central because: One, it’s just how I want to live, but two is you end up saving money.

Because you walk everywhere you save a bunch of time, it’s so much better. I don’t know if it’s laziness, or habitual, or whatever reason it happens to be, but what I’ve noticed is like if I say to someone:

Hey, why don’t you find a job that’s by where you live?

or

Why don’t you live where your work is?

Oh, no, that’s like too much work. I can’t do that.

People get really lazy about these big decisions that can save so much time and money and instead they waste like an hour or two everyday commuting instead of just finding an apartment where they actually want to live.

Bottom (Minimalistic) Line

So let’s step back, big picture a little bit:

What are the real things we need to live?

You need food, you need some clothing, I guess you need to go somewhere that gives you money. And you know, maybe let’s say you need a phone, some WiFi.

This is going to vary by country, but if your insurance and basic kind of fees and stuff for the government is going to be somewhere between zero and maybe $300-$400, if you’re somewhere in the US with crazy health care costs, and whatever…so you’ve got maybe 300-400 bucks for pretty much anywhere in the world if you’re smart about it.

Food can get as low as $200 or cheaper a month. If you eat basics: Chicken, rice, beans, these sorts of things.

And I know, I know, you need bio, or organic and free-range…Yes, totally cool.

Maintain the job you hate and work paycheck to paycheck. So you can eat organic chicken and free-range eggs, and blah, blah, blah – for the record, that’s what I tend to try to buy.

But it’s not what I bought when I was really broke.

Instead, I worked on not being broke, so that I could buy it in a sustainable way later.

The point is you’ve got somewhere between $100 and, say, $400 of basic government costs, okay, you’ve got food – could be as low as $200 a month. If you’re actually really conscious. Keeping it low.

We’ve got clothing too, but most of us already own clothes and if you’re reading this, I assume you’re still not growing, so you’re not going to outgrow your pants and stuff. Keep your clothes the same for the next year. Say:

Hey, I’m going to look like a bum, like Dan most of the time. And instead, I’m going to have an awesome life of freedom, doing the things I love in a couple of years. Because I’ve looked like a bum now. Just something you could try out.

So what else is there?

Maybe home internet, phone – $50 a month or maybe you just get a phone with a good data plan and then don’t get home internet and .you know, watch my YouTube videos on 360p instead of HD. Or just get home internet and don’t get a phone plan and just use WiFi WhatsApp calling for everything.

Yeah, I don’t really know where else money can go. I know there’s heat and rent and probably some other costs that I’m forgetting here and things that can come up. But the reality is, if you go really minimalistic, you can get things insanely cheap.

Maybe you’re in your 30s now, and or even, let’s say – 40s, and you’ve got a good corporate job, you’re earning good money.

So you got your own nice apartment snd you have a car and you’re like:

My basic monthly expenses are $4,000, this is what I need to pay!

Then think about the decision you want to make here. Do you want to keep that and pretty much guaranteed you’re going to be stuck in that loop?

As long as you have those fixed bills, you’re not going to magically build your own business on the side and get out of that.

Or maybe you go back to living like a college kid for a few years, get a roommate, share a room, sleep on a sofa for a year, sleep somewhere for 400 bucks. Go to a coworking space during the day to get your work done. Build your own business living super cheap. Bring your own lunches and sacrifice for a year or two.

And I get it if you don’t want to make that sacrifice. If you’re too old for that, you’re comfortable. You love your car.

Totally cool, totally cool.

But just know that when you’re, you know, watching my videos, or seen someone who’s living their dream out and doing what they really love, with no regret that their odds are they sacrificed.

You have no idea how much I sacrificed in terms of being broke and stressed. But I made those sacrifices because I knew the end goal.

And that’s what I want to encourage you to do here.

Just acknowledge that, ultimately, there are two choices:

Sacrifice, cut your costs, maybe get a little extreme, and give yourself that room to do what you really want to do.

Or just accept that that’s not going to happen and stop daydreaming about it.

But if you’re not willing to make some changes, to sacrifice, to give up some of those luxuries, then things are most likely not going to change.

If you’re really struggling with this with thinking about what expenses you could cut back, maybe go extreme and think why don’t I just give up everything? What if you broke your lease, paid the fee, sold all your stuff and reset in terms of where you live, how you live, what could you get your bills down to?

And I’ll tell you just in my own experience, kind of talking to people – if you’re thinking about a big life change, and something that you really want to be doing that you’re not currently doing – thinking about how to make a big life change that feeling’s not going to go away.

It’s not going to go away until you either do something about it, and that’s probably something a bit big, something a bit scary, something that might require some sacrifice, or you can keep going the way you’re going.

But in my experience that just continues.

You know that a year, two years, three years from now, you’ll still kind of be reading and thinking about it.

And I don’t say that to discourage you or offend you.

Make the change now.

The sooner you do it, the easier it will be.

The sooner you make that change, the less debt you’ll have built up, the lower your expenses will be. The more time you’ll have to live with this weight off your shoulder, living cheap, doing what you want, feeling fulfilled.

The last thing that I’m going to add here is that, in my experience, when someone has a job that wears them out, that isn’t what they want to be doing in life -they spend so much more money.

I don’t know if it’s unconsciously trying to justify it or just that they’re stressed.

And at the end of the day, they’re like:

Screw it. I’m going out for dinner, I’m having some beer.

But when you are doing what you’re meant to be doing and happy with your life, it becomes really easy not to spend much money.

So take some kind of action in your own life.

Even if it’s just finding a way to cut down your monthly expenses by 50 bucks this month.

Do it and then keep doing it and doing it and doing it and…let me know in the comments how it worked for you.

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