Our 2021 Finances

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Photo by Katie Harp on Unsplash

After the terrible experience in 2020 of being holed up away from family and friends, Christmas and New Year’s 2021 was a significant improvement. I mean, sure, we had to do a bunch of rapid tests and sure, we had to intersperse going to COVID booster appointments in between unwrapping presents, but this year we were able to finally spend Christmas with our loved ones. And it was AWESOME.

As the clock ticked down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, I reflected on the past year with a few close friends. Was the worst behind us? Do we dare hope that travel will return to normal in 2022 so we can be our nomadic selves again?

Now that we’ve been retired for over 6 years, I’m less into building accomplishments and more into building community. And when I say community, I don’t mean a large group of people who love and worship you. Just one person who accepts you as you are and is there for you when shit hits the fan can make a difference. It’s not about the number of people because even being in a crowded room (Yeesh, I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about this. Thanks a lot, Covid.) can still feel lonely if you don’t find your tribe. Life isn’t about money or accomplishments. It’s about connection.

Just kidding. It’s totally about money and accomplishments! At least, at first anyway. Without getting my basic needs met and my finances sorted, I would’ve never found this exceptional group of friends (our Chautauquan family, as I like to call them) and there’s no way I would have had the time and headspace to get to know them on a deeper level. My days before retirement consisted of work, sleep, eat, repeat. Who has the time to find a tribe other than your sucky, sucky manager?

So, with that in mind, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how we sort out our finances so you also have the time and freedom to spend with your tribe.

In 2021, with restaurants, movie theatres, bars, and cafes open, our austere pandemic lifestyle of being stuck indoors, meditating, reading, and watching endless hours of Netflix was quickly obliterated.

So, what did that do to our spending for 2021? Did we double it? Triple it? Spend it all and now have to go back to work?

With the economy returning to normal, so did our expenses, coming in at….*drum roll*…a whopping $39,028.88 for the two of us.

Here’s a monthly breakdown of how much we spent in 2021:

Jan$2,614.70$2062.23Toronto was still under lockdown, so we weren’t able to spend any money on eating out or activities. Sad panda face.
March$3,748.96$2956.82We spent the coldest 2 months in Vancouver and Victoria, BC. which increased our spending. Worth it!
June$2,320.63$1830.29This was our lowest spending month because I signed up for a special credit card from HSBC, which enabled us to earn enough credit card points to offset our spending by $625.
August$2,531.34$1996.48Despite spending 10 days in the Atlantic provinces, this ended up being our 2nd lowest cost month because we visited family for 2 weeks afterwards which halved our monthly rental costs. Wanderer also signed up for the same HSBC card, which nabbed him $925 in points and travel credits.
September$5,047.28$3980.81Highest spending month of the year. Why? 1) I spent $1600 on used furniture for an unfurnished 1 bedroom apartment, which is a steal at $1500/month rent, all utilities and parking included. 2) $519 is spent on splitting the cost of a cabin rental with friends.
Monthly Average:$3,252.41$2565.19Despite living in expensive Toronto, our monthly expenses were still $80 less than our normal projected $3333/month spending.

Here’s a monthly breakdown of how much we spent in different categories on average:

Rent (utilities included)$1672
Eating Out$512.18
Cell Phone & Data$40.53
Other (gifts/donations/toiletries)$156.69

Given that our spending in 2020 was only $33,965, it seems like our lifestyle inflated by a whopping ($39,028.88-$33,965)/$33,965 *100% = 14.9%!

15% is seems like insane amount of inflation in just 1 year. No wonder everyone’s screaming about inflation and how we’re all doomed and money is going to be worthless. Right?


If you look at the big picture, you’ll see that prior to the pandemic, back in 2019, we spent $43,053. The pandemic caused our expenses to deflate by ($43,053 – $33,965)/$43,053 *100% = 21%!

So despite all the sky-is-falling news articles about how Joe Biden printing money will destroy the US economy, when we compare our 2021 to our normal 2019 spending of $43,053/year, we’re personally experiencing deflation by 9% (($43,053-$39,028.88)/$43,053*100%).

Will this continue in 2022 as the world continues its return to normalcy? Who knows? The good news is now that travel is returning to normal (provided that Omicron fizzles out) we can once again use geographic arbitrage to decrease our expenses.

Portfolio B expenses:

Long time readers know that in order to keep our retirement experience pure, we live off of Portfolio A, which is the original $1 million portfolio we retired on, while segregating all the income we made post retirement into portfolio B. That way any bonus money we spend that is outside of living expenses like business expenses, donations, gifts for friends and family, and courses or tools for self-development and education, can be recorded as optional, “luxury” costs.

We do this mainly for the benefit of you, the readers, because as long as our base costs remain within the 4% rule of our original portfolio, that means that FIRE works even if you don’t end up making money on a post-retirement side hustle like we have.

Here’s how much we spent on Portfolio B this year:


The Big Picture

Now that we’ve been retired long enough, what has our spending looked like for the past 6+ years?

YearSpending (CAD)Spending (USD)

It’s fluctuated between $33K-$43K/year, and this averages out to be $38,288/year for the 2 of us for the past 6 years.  

Contrast this with the average yearly spending of ($51,000 + $46,000 + $48,600 + $45,450 + $40,600 + $37,000 + $33,416 + $31,000)/8 = $41,633 during our 8 working years, means that on average, we were spending an extra $3,345/year to work.

Even though on paper we should be experiencing inflation, we’re experiencing the opposite (deflation) because those costs associated with working have permanently dropped off our budget.  

Even more interesting is that we should’ve been increasing our 4% withdrawal number each year by inflation (2%), which means, now 6.5 years later, we should safely be able to withdraw:

Instead, we’ve just left it at $40,000/year in spending because I don’t feel the need to inflate my expenses any further to continue living my life of travel and comfort. Optimizing is fun for me.

This year, even after adding in the extraneous Portfolio B expenses of $6536.92, we’re still at $45,565.80, which is around the inflation-adjusted 4% withdrawal rate of the original $1 million portfolio.

So, even if we hadn’t earned a single cent in retirement and our portfolio went sideways, 6.5 years after retirement, we’d still be within the safe withdrawal rate. And despite having to come back to Toronto, one of the most expensive cities in Canada, we’re still within our original level of spending.

Looking back, I never thought that I’d be spending less while travelling the world, having more freedom and more money while eliminating my stress. There’s always that voice in the back of your head when you hand in your notice that wonders “What if I’m making a big mistake? How can I be sure this will all work out?”

What I didn’t know at the time was how much I was actually spending to work. Commuting, eating out, decompressing with vacation packages, buying and cleaning professional clothes, all of that takes time and money. Now, with all the time in the world, I no longer have to spend money on all those things, and I have more time than ever to optimize. Which is why we’ve been able to work on optimizing our expenses and investments so that we make money in our sleep while spending less than we ever did while working. As an added bonus, our relationships with our family and friends have never been better.

I’ve been retired long enough that I no longer care about fighting haters about FIRE. In the beginning, there’s always a part of you that’s unsure, especially if you’re a pessimist like me, about whether it’ll all work out. So, proving the haters wrong is a way of proving to yourself that you made the right decision. But after more than 6 years living this lifestyle, surviving turmoil in the markets like the 2015 oil crisis, 2018 US government shutdown, and the 2020 pandemic, I no longer feel the need to prove anything. If you want to become FI and live a life of freedom, I’m happy to show you how. I want you to be stress-free and happy too.

But for the people who don’t believe in FI and love hating on it, I no longer care about changing their minds. I’m not responsible for other people’s happiness. You are responsible for your own. You do you, boo.

So, that’s it. Our 2021 spending in a nutshell. Stay tuned for part 2 where we talk about how our Portfolio did in 2021!

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55 thoughts on “Our 2021 Finances”

  1. Great post. I can really relate to this point: “Instead, we’ve just left it at $40,000/year in spending because I don’t feel the need to inflate my expenses any further to continue living my life of travel and comfort. Optimizing is fun for me.”

    Could I spend more? Sure. But why?! Optimizing is too fun. 🙂

    Also, my expenses are surprisingly similar to yours. Maybe there is a sort of “financial sweet spot” that we naturally gravitate towards if we are natural optimizers….

    1. “Maybe there is a sort of “financial sweet spot” that we naturally gravitate towards if we are natural optimizers….”

      Your are spot on about this. When I was working, I bought the name brand purses, went on fancy vacations to 5 star resorts, and now I’m just totally over it. Spending money mindlessly is so boring to me. I like problem solving. Constraints are fun.

  2. Oh wow, great job keeping your cost of living stable. Our spending increased about 8% in 2021. This is due to spending more on healthcare, home repair, and food. I think we still did pretty well because we spent about $43,000 for a family of 3. Next year, we’ll travel a lot more so I think our spending will increase. We’re keeping our house so that doesn’t help.
    Happy New Year!

  3. Thanks for sharing guys! Love your posts! I wonder who your credit score changed now that you are retired? For example now you are getting new credit cards, how does it affect your credit score? Not that it matters when you are 100% fire but some of us may be willing to apply for loans in the future.

    1. Our credit score hasn’t been affected at all by retirement. Even when we are credit card hacking like crazy, they didn’t change much. You just need to be aware of your credit limits and ask to decrease it across the cards when it’s too high across too many cards.

  4. Fantastic! I’m very bullish on 2022. With over 3 million new business created and about the same number of tech-hating-progress-blocking-boomers retired out of the workforce we are poised for incredible growth.

    I know, I know, I said something mean about someone but boomers fought me on every innovative idea I had during my 25 year sentence, uh, career in Corporate America. I’m actually grateful for their profound selfishness (“It’ll hold ’till I retire” – a pipefitter repairing a high pressure natural gas line) and tech insecurities (“I don’t want to learn all this computer crap”). It provided the incentive for me to discover and learn FIRE so I could get the hell out asap.

    Now I live in a super insulated passive solar heated smart home (that we built from nothing) in the mountains of Colorado and spend a lot of time sleeping, working out and chasing my amazing girlfriend around the bedroom when we are at home – hiking, mountain biking and skiing when we travel for months at a time. I win.

    1. Hey, Lance! Are you open to talking a bit more about building your smart home from nothing? I’m in Colorado as well, and escaping to the mountains full-time just sounds better and better.

    2. “same number of tech-hating-progress-blocking-boomers retired out of the workforce”

      LOL. So good.

      “Now I live in a super insulated passive solar heated smart home.”

      Love this. You are winning at life and helping the environment.

  5. Glad you got to spend time with family! That’s the most important thing.

    We spent about $250,000 in 2021, which felt about right. Our plan is to boost spending in 2022 to spend more of our investment gains.

    Might feel weird to spend more, but we are going to try!


      1. We might go to Hawaii this summer if COVID is better contained. My sone will have received his vaccine by then. It’ll be nice to spend more time with grandparents. Let’s hope things get better!

  6. Great post! I’m curious about the 547.15/month for groceries for two people. Can you share how you get this so low? For example, which stores do you shop at? What does a typical weekly grocery haul look like? What are some example breakfast, lunch and dinners? (actually, maybe there’s enough here to make its own blog post).

    If following Canada food guide, recommendation is 7-8 servings of fruit/veg per day. Let’s say 7, so in a week that’s 49 servings, and for two people that’s 98 servings. Given price of fruit/veg, trying to picture that many servings in a weekly shop plus recommended servings of meat/alternates, eggs, dairy etc. coming in around $136 (assuming going to grocery store around 4 times per month).

    1. We shop at Freshco, No Frills, and Food Basics mostly. Sometimes Farmboy if i want organic 35% fat cream to make clotted cream. I love that Freshco has organic produce for way better value than any of the other grocery stories. Food Basics has some too. For meat, I mostly buy organic chicken and ground pork from Freshco.

      In terms of veggies and fruit, I love chinatown. You get super good deals because they need to turn over the veggies quickly. I’ve found tomatoes for 0.49 /lb (when Fresco has them for $1.99, organic strawberries for 2 for $5, etc.

      In terms of meals, I like to do hot pot a lot (it’s authentic Sichuan style of cooking). The groceries I get from T&T end up being around $80 but lasts for at least 4-5 days, and that covers lunch and dinner, so that works out to be only $20 per day for lunch and dinner for the 2 of us. Super easy and cheap. I think hot pot is our fav meal because it’s the best “effort to taste ratio”. When we get sick of cooking, we’ll go out to eat. We’re actually not that efficient in terms of food since it’s over $1000 for food (including eating out)/month but I’m fine with that because I like eating out. There are families of 3 I know who can bring down their total cost of food to only $500/month, groceries only and no eating out. That’s too restrictive for me. I’m too lazy for that.

      “actually, maybe there’s enough here to make its own blog post”–> Really? Would that be interesting? I dunno. I my head a grocery list is super boring for other people but I guess if it’s interesting to you, I can write about it 🙂

  7. Thanks for sharing all this information. Very useful.

    I find impressive you can keep your overall spending this low, while having such a high rent (18K$ per year) due to the high cost of living area. I must be eating too much, my budget is so high, maybe something for me to work on in 2022. 😀

    Anyway, congrats for keeping your expenses this low. That’s impressive !

    Couple of things I agree or disagree about this post (my opinion / and some facts) :

    1) “Life isn’t about money or accomplishments. It’s about connection. Just kidding. It’s totally about money and accomplishments! At least, at first anyway.”

    Completely agree. In the end, money is just a tool. Whether you use it well or not will define if you are happy or not in life. But those (many) people who choose not to have it (because – we all know – money is a bad thing!), then they can’t use it. Or worse, they are used by it. Corporate slaves… We all know them. 😉

    2) “So despite all the sky-is-falling news articles about how Joe Biden printing money will destroy the US economy, when we compare our 2021 to our normal 2019 spending of $43,053/year, we’re personally experiencing deflation by 9%”

    Couple of things about inflation :

    First, inflation has to be considered in relation to the amount of goods and services you got for your money. This is easier to do on an item by item basis, much less at a global level, like an annual personal budget.

    For example, if you took the plane 20 times in 2019, vs 4 times in 2021, total travel cost will decline, but you also got less of that service. You could calculate your own inflation / deflation rate only if you consider the quantity of goods and services you consumed for both years, which, I reckon, is almost impossible to do.

    One particularity of this pandemic is that it changed our live in a big way, and the economy as well. We can’t do certain things, and are almost forced into other things. Prices reflect those changes. Prices are down for items we use less (airline tickets, oil, hotels) and prices are up for items that are in high demand or are harder to find (home renovation, electronics).

    Second, inflation is a very slow process. So, we may be able to perceive inflation more clearly when we will compare 2019 and 2024, when things will be completely back to normal. I think it is still too early to conclude anything on inflation.

    Third, inflation affect poorer people the most, and benefit the rich. I’m sad to tell you, but when you are FIRE, you are on the rich side. When you have real estate or stocks, your wealth increase because those assets rise with inflation. Those who simply save money (in cash or bonds) and never invest are the biggest losers because their portfolio don’t increase like others invested in “real” assets.

    Also, when you are wealthy, you can more easily reduce your spending, like doing geographic arbitrage, or reduce travelling. Those who work because they need the money can’t cut expenses easily because they cannot move to a lower cost location or reduce their travel (mandatory travel to workplace 🙁 )…

    Anyway, my conclusion on inflation is we should pay more attention to it going forward and be more careful in our decisions. The “inflation-sky” may not fall on you and me, but it will certainly fall on many people, most likely lower income worker and fixed income retirees.

    3 ) “We do this mainly for the benefit of you, the readers, because as long as our base costs remain within the 4% rule of our original portfolio, that means that FIRE works even if you don’t end up making money on a post-retirement side hustle like we have.”

    I understand you have good intent showing your expenses in two different portfolios. But remember these are only “theoritical” numbers. The only numbers that should be relevant to you are the “overall” number.

    It is easy to say now that it could have worked well even without a side hustle. But the reality is it would have been much more stressful during the last 6 years. Would you have sold some of your stock portfolio at the bottom of the market ? Would you have allocated a larger portion in bonds for more safety ?

    Nobody knows. Because your psychology would have been different without a side hustle.

    Also, market conditions could be different in the future. It’s not because the last 6 years have been great that we can conclude “any period of 6 years will be great”. There is a large part of uncertainty in finance. It is important to take that into consideration.

    The better protected you are (higher net worth, greater diversification, lower spending level, more flexibility in spending and/or have a side hustle), the greater the chances of success at FIRE. It is as simple as that…

    So just be careful when you say : “FIRE works even if you don’t end up making money on a post-retirement side hustle”.

    Two interesting links for you if you want to read more on these subjects :

    Anyway, you have a great blog. Very inspiring. I hope you continue for a very long time and don’t intend to FIRE from your side hustle… 😉

    Wish you the best for 2022 !

    1. You make some good points 🙂

      This is a personal blog though, so everything will been seen from my perspective. My aim to show there is more than one way to live, not represent every person’s situation.

      1. Agree with you, every financial situation is personal, including your own.

        But as your blog get more and more popular, more people will follow what you did and want to follow your steps. That is a good thing for the FIRE movement as well as for society in general. We need more people saving and investing and less people squandering like there is no tomorrow. But it’s possible some people will fail in their FIRE journey if they are not careful enough or don’t have any plan B or C.

        In the end, everyone is responsible for their own decisions. But if we can avoid people being hurt, that’s even better. Let’s help each other out and make this FIRE community even more successful ! 🙂

        Anyway, thanks for your hard work with this blog. You have a lot of valuable information in here !

        1. Manuel, I will agree with you 100% that everyone is responsible for their own decisions.

          Do we need to say anything more on the subject? Not much, I think. People will be motivated to seek FIRE or they won’t. And if they don’t, really, why should anyone else care or give a second thought about it.

          Most people like to be poor. If that wasn’t the case, we would have a whole lot less poor people.

          I was poor. I didn’t like it so I did something about it. Now I’m not. See…easy!

          1. That’s true. I was also not very rich when I was young. I did everything I could to get in a better situation. Congrats for your success !

    1. HSBC World Elite Mastercard. They were running a special but you had to apply before end of Dec 31, 2020. Not sure if there’s a similar deal this year.

  8. Here’s an example breakdown:


    Housing related (property taxes, insurance, utilities): $7000/year

    Car related (insurance, gas, registration): $1000/year

    Food related: $7200/year

    Obamacare related: $1000/year

    Total: $16200/year

    I allocated $40000/year for expenses. I guess the remainder ($23800/year) will just go into housing and car maintenance.


  9. Who is your 40$ phone plan with? is it bring your own? I need a new phone and hate the idea of spending a fortunate on a new plan for a new phone but I don’t know anyone I trust selling a used one 😛

    1. Lucky mobile. $25/month for 1 GB. I was using the 7/11 SpeakOut plan at the beginning of the year but they’ve since raised their costs.

    2. You don’t need to sign up for an expensive phone plan in order to get a new (at least to you phone). The discount carriers in Canada (Public Mobile, Chatr and Lucky Mobile) do offer both new and used budget phones for sale. Mostly you will find android phones, but Public Mobile does sell refurbished iPhones occasionally. (They have certified used iPhone 8’s right now for ~$240). My wife has 1GB of Data with Public Mobile for $23 per month and I get 2.5GB for $33 per month.

      There are also stores that sell both used and new/open box phones. I would not buy from an online store, but if you can check out the device in person and the store offers a warranty, you should be good to go.

      1. Great tips 🙂 … though we use our phones a lot for videos and photos … of family and travel etc … 500+ GB to 1 TB … of phone memory etc .. .. do have this issue … how do you handle it?

        1. So you want 500GB to 1TB of storage on your phone? Wow, that is a lot of storage. You probably are not going to find any used android or apple products with that type of built in storage. So you have two choices, use the cloud, or transfer files off of your phone to an external computer/ mass storage device. If you are using the cloud and want instant access to the large files anywhere and at anytime, well 1 or 2.5gb per month won’t cut it. You are looking at a plan such as the 12gb per month for $50 with Koodo. This does not include any type of device, you need to include that separately.

          As for how do I handle this, I use my phone for photos and videos, but I upload them to the cloud (apple iCloud plan) when I’m on wifi only. I also don’t do any editing or really looking at photos on my phone, that is reserved for my MacBook and iPad. I pull any photos / videos older than about a year off of the cloud 2-3 times per year and store them on an external hard drive except for photos that I truly love. This allows me to get away with 2.5GB of monthly data, $5 per month for iCloud storage. Your choices might be different.

  10. Just wanted to say I support your $1050 food spending for 2 lol.

    Food is my thing and I generally spend whatever I want about $200 for eating out, $1000 for groceries – family of 3.

  11. Read your book this summer and loved it. I’m a bit older and wish I would have had your perspective when I was younger!

    I noticed there was no healthcare expenses in your summary. How do you deal with healthcare? I’m here in the US and it is my second largest expense even with insurance.

  12. Does anyone know what inflation number/percentage to use for indexing my portfolio withdrawal in 2022? I’m in Canada.

    1. That’s a strange question. Why would you care about inflation when considering your withdrawal rate? If inflation spikes (like it did in 2021), a properly balanced and diversified investment portfolio will follow suit and keep pace. Therefore, if you pulled 4% previously, you should continue to pull 4% going forward. Just don’t have 40% of your portfolio in something like VAB or your whole portfolio in something like VBAL/XBAL. Instead of VAB, hold something like 20% ZPR, 20% VSB instead.

      1. I see what you are saying, stick at 4% of the portfolio each year (I assume that’s what you mean anyway).

        I was thinking of the 4% Rule: withdraw 4% of the portfolio in the first year of retirement, then adjust that amount for inflation in each subsequent year.

        2021 was our first full year of retirement. We are a little overweight on the fixed income side right now at 30%, but that does include this year’s spending. I’ll check out ZPR and VSB, and see how they would fit in our portfolio. Thanks.

        1. Inflation rate was 4.7% in Canada. But that’s for November. We should have December inflation rate soon (in coming days).


          Dave is right in the sense that if you can maintain your 4% withdrawal rate for 2022, it won’t hurt you. The younger you are and the lower your portfolio return was, the more careful you should be with increasing your withdrawal rate.

          You are also right that the 4% rule allow to increase withdrawal rate with inflation. The reality is that, after 10 or 15 years, it will be almost impossible to maintain a fixed rate of withdrawal. The 4% rule take that into account.

          In practice, whether you should increase your withdrawal rate in 2022 by ~4.7% is up to you.

          The best course of action may be to see if you can maintain your expenses at the same level (2021) and then withdraw the extra amount if it’s too hard do to. You can always adjust for two years in 2023 if you think 2022 withdrawal was too low. Cutting back withdrawals later if the portfolio doesn’t perform is much harder…

          1. Thanks Manuel. From the link you provided, I easily found the recently published CPI as at December 2021; it is 4.8%.

            Increasing our withdrawal amount by 4.8% fits with our plan to start withdrawing more than we need for expenses and travel, as we want to give some of our money to our kids (while we’re still breathing), and at the same time avoid going too far beyond what the portfolio should be able to tolerate.

  13. Great to compare over a number of years! Your monthly rent is low! We are still paying off our mortgage (2 years to go!). Once that is gone we should have similar spending of $40,000/year for family of 5.

    Not that you needed to but your eating out spending could always reduce a small percentage if necessary. Over $500/month, but your overall spending is so low it doesn’t matter!

  14. It is amazing that you are able to stick to your financial game plan budget for the last 6 years. We are 30% over-shot our plan budget in the same time frame.

    I am glad that you have the right mindset going forward…building the “TRIBE”!

    Load “Wanderer” up with “Whey Protein” and set him up with a gym membership…
    Within 5 years, there must be the “Night Fury” in your “TRIBE”.

    Good luck kids!

  15. Well done! First found your blog while on beach vacation with family and loved reading it. 2021 was our first year FIRE together and has been amazing for us. Surprising to me was that our numbers look almost exactly like your retirement numbers except we spend on different things. I draw inspiration from you knowing your FIRE journey has been 6+ years and will learn from your experience. Thank you for posting all this great information and I look forward to reading future posts!

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