Chrissy from Eat Sleep Breathe FI is a financial independence retire early (FIRE) blogger who is known for her passion and generosity of spirit. Her journey towards financial independence is not only fueled by her desire for comfortable living but also her core values of family, purpose, and intention. Instead of focusing solely on her own journey, Chrissy is dedicated to lifting others up and empowering those around her to achieve financial independence.
One of Chrissy’s superpowers is her ability to build a community that feels like coming home. She offers accessible knowledge and resources free from the air of superiority that can sometimes run roughshod over new converts. In an interview with Hardbacon, Chrissy shared insights into her FIRE journey, motivations, and how others can live the FIRE life too. Her authentic and warm approach to sharing her knowledge sets her apart from others in the FIRE community.
Can You Introduce Yourself and Share an Interesting Fact?
Chrissy, the blogger behind Eat Sleep Breathe FI and co-host of the Explore FI Canada podcast, is a stay-at-home mom living in Vancouver, BC with her husband, two sons, and Shiba Inu, Mika. As a FIRE fanatic, Chrissy loves sharing her knowledge about FIRE with others. Outside of finance, Chrissy is a huge foodie, but she refuses to eat escargots. Despite being adventurous, she just can’t bring herself to eat snails. This interesting fact shows that Chrissy is willing to try new things, but she also knows where to draw the line when it comes to her personal preferences.
Can you describe your life before FIRE?
Before achieving financial independence and retiring early, the individual was always good with their money and saved a high percentage of their income. However, they were not fully optimized with their expenses and investments. They also lacked intentionality with their money decisions, unsure of how much they really needed for retirement and how to reach that goal.
What Inspired Them to Start This Journey?
The individual’s journey towards FIRE began in 2014 when they stumbled upon Mr. Money Mustache’s blog post titled “Shockingly Simple Math” after searching for information on retirement savings. Their motivation for pursuing financial independence was to free their husband from the necessity of working due to an eye condition that caused him to lose most of the vision in his left eye. While he loves his job, the option to retire or at least alleviate the pressure of having to work would be a welcome relief. This desire to provide financial security for their family has been the driving force behind their pursuit of FIRE.
What was the first step towards a FIRE lifestyle?
When preparing for a new FIRE lifestyle, it’s important to gather as much information as possible. The first step is to read blogs, listen to podcasts, and read books about FIRE, personal finance, and investing. This will provide a solid foundation of knowledge to make informed decisions. After gaining knowledge, it’s important to create a plan and implement changes. Setting up systems to move towards FIRE goals is the next step. With a well-thought-out plan and systems in place, achieving financial independence is within reach.
We are enjoying the “What Does It Cost To Live Here” series. How was the idea conceived?
The idea for the “What Does It Cost To Live Here” series was born after the author decided to share her family’s annual spending on her blog. As she worked on the post, she realized that she could turn this into a series of interviews with others about their annual spending. The author saw the potential to make this series more than just “getting to know you”-type interviews by sharing numbers and tips and turning it into a resource for all FIRE seekers.
To find interviewees, the author directly reached out to a small handful of them, but she has been fortunate that the majority have come to her on their own. Some find her by word-of-mouth, some are blogging friends, some are readers, and some find her series via social media. The response to the series so far, from both participants and readers, has been overwhelmingly positive.
What has been the most surprising thing they learned about themselves on this journey?
Through DIY index investing, they discovered their capability in investing, which they previously thought was only for the intellectually superior. They are proud of the knowledge they gained by dedicating their free time to learn about investing and managing their finances. The journey has proven their old beliefs wrong and has made them more confident and knowledgeable in investing.
What were their spending habits like before starting FIRE?
Before discovering FIRE, their spending habits were similar to what they are now. However, they were on the verge of increasing their lifestyle spending. The discovery of FIRE gave them a more meaningful goal to work towards, which was buying her husband’s freedom. This purposeful goal helped them avoid inflating their spending habits.
They did not have a specific budget in place before starting FIRE, but they were conscious of their spending and tried to save where they could. They did not have any debt other than their mortgage, which they were paying off aggressively. They also did not have any expensive hobbies or habits that drained their finances.
Overall, their spending habits were relatively modest before starting FIRE, but they were aware that they could easily fall into the trap of lifestyle inflation if they did not have a clear goal in mind.
Did You Focus on Reducing Spending to Increase Your Disposable Income for Investing, or Did You Start a Side Hustle to Increase Cash Flow, or Was It a Mix of Both?
At the beginning of their FIRE journey, the focus was on reducing spending, which was an easy and satisfying way to get started. Once they had exhausted all the ways to save, the focus shifted to increasing cash flow. The writer continued to host homestay students and put more effort into earning credit card rewards and rebates from sites like Rakuten and Shopper Army. However, the moderate sources of income would only get them so far, so the writer continued to learn about investing to be more effective and earn more with their investments. It was a mix of both reducing spending and increasing cash flow that led to investing.
How Did They Determine Their Spending?
The individual mentioned that they do not budget, but they do track their spending meticulously. By keeping track of their expenses, they can identify areas where they may be overspending and adjust accordingly. This approach allows them to gain valuable insights into their spending habits and make informed decisions about their finances.
How to Resist the Urge to Splurge Outside Your Budget
To resist the urge to splurge outside of one’s budget, it’s important to have a plan for discretionary spending that helps stay on track without giving up the things that bring joy. Being clear on the reasons for saving and spending is also helpful. For instance, understanding why one is saving aggressively can provide motivation to stay on track, while knowing why certain expenses are avoided can help prioritize spending on what is truly valued. As Paula Pant advises, “You can’t afford everything, but you can afford anything.” It’s also important to avoid temptation by staying away from places that can lead to overspending and to track spending with a budgeting app to stay on top of expenses.
How to Handle Slip-Ups and Unexpected Expenses
Managing slip-ups and unexpected expenses can be a challenge for anyone. Instead of relying on a large emergency fund, Chrissy from Eat Sleep Breathe FI recommends creating an emergency plan. This involves listing all possible emergencies that may arise and developing a plan to cover them. For one-off expenses, such as home and auto repairs, cash flow or sinking funds can be used. For larger emergencies, appropriate insurance coverage can be purchased. By having a plan in place, unexpected expenses can be handled without causing financial stress. It is important to regularly review and update the emergency plan to ensure it remains relevant and effective.
What has been the most difficult part about reducing your spending?
For many people, the most challenging part of reducing their spending is feeling like they stand out from others. This is especially true when living in a higher-income neighbourhood where many families own multiple fancy cars, have all the latest gadgets, and send their kids to the best classes and camps. It can be tough to resist the temptation to keep up with the Joneses, but those who choose to live frugally have to be comfortable with being different.
One of the most effective money-saving tips is to revisit recurring expenses at least once a year. This simple step can help individuals save money immediately and continue to do so every month, year after year. By repeating this process with all expenses, significant savings can add up to thousands of dollars per year and tens of thousands over many years.
Another unexpected hack is the decision for one partner to stay at home and raise the kids. While many assume this is a more expensive decision, there are significant cost savings that can offset the loss of one partner’s income. This hack is explained in more detail in the post titled “Spouse FI: Everything You Need to Know About This Amazing Lifestyle Option”.
Overall, it can be challenging to reduce spending and live frugally, but the benefits are worth it. By being mindful of expenses and making intentional choices, individuals can achieve financial independence and live a fulfilling life without breaking the bank.
Can You Describe Your Investment Portfolio for Our Readers? What Exactly Are You Invested In?
The reader’s investments are currently managed by their financial planner and investment manager. The portfolio is based on recommendations from Canadian Couch Potato and PWL Capital, with a slight tilt to small-cap value based on Paul Merriman’s advice. The portfolio holds a mix of Canadian, US, and international index ETFs. The reader was previously a DIY investor but is now happy with the current arrangement.
Are you using an RRSP or TFSA as part of your strategy? Can you tell us why or why not? How are you using that particular product?
Many Canadians are using RRSPs and TFSAs as part of their retirement savings strategy. RRSPs provide valuable tax deductions that help reduce taxable income. On the other hand, TFSAs offer flexibility, allowing individuals to withdraw their savings tax-free at any time.
One strategy is to contribute to a Spousal RRSP, which allows couples to split their income in retirement while giving the contributing spouse a tax deduction. TFSAs can be kept untouched for as long as possible, and withdrawals can be strategically made in retirement to keep tax rates low in higher-spending years.
Overall, using both RRSPs and TFSAs can provide a well-rounded retirement savings plan with tax benefits and flexibility.
Did they have prior investing experience or were they new to investing when they started FIRE?
The individual had a strong foundation of investing knowledge, thanks to their mother who worked at a big bank and taught them about RRSPs, TFSAs, and how to buy and sell stocks through a brokerage. However, they did not know much about what to invest in beyond bank stocks and bluechip mutual funds their mother had them in.
Before Switching to a Financial Planner, What Investing Brokerage Did They Use?
Prior to switching to a financial planner, the individual in question used Questrade as their investing brokerage. They were content with the service provided by Questrade, despite the occasional hiccup or annoyance, as they valued the low fees.
What to Do If You’ve Never Invested Before
For someone who has never invested before, the best advice is to start with education. There are many resources available, such as blogs, podcasts, and books, that can help you learn about investing. It’s important to take the time to educate yourself before making any investment decisions. One great resource is a free ‘course’ called FI School, which has curated the best resources to help you learn about FI, including how to get started with investing. Once you have a good understanding of the basics, you can start exploring your investment options.
What is their opinion on credit cards and do they use one?
The author of this article is a strong proponent of responsible credit card use. They primarily use cashback cards such as the Rogers World Elite MasterCard, PC World Elite MasterCard, and the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite. They find cashback rewards simple and easy to use and redeem. Additionally, they occasionally use travel points cards to accumulate points and miles for future travel. The author specifically mentions the Rogers World Elite MasterCard, which offers a $25 welcome bonus in cash back rewards for making the first purchase within the first three months of opening the account. Overall, the author’s opinion is that credit cards can be a useful financial tool when used responsibly.
Do You Utilize Any Other Credit Products to Enhance Your FIRE Strategy? Can You Explain What You Use as Well as How You Use Them and Why?
As part of their emergency plan strategy, the individual has several lines of credit (LOCs) that they reserve solely for emergencies. Additionally, they have borrowed from the equity in their home and used it to invest, which is known as the Smith Manoeuvre. This strategy is used to enhance their FIRE strategy, as it allows them to invest in assets that generate income and increase their net worth while minimizing their tax burden. By leveraging their home equity, they can invest in a diversified portfolio, which helps them achieve their financial goals faster.
Can you tell us who your favourite bank is and why you chose them?
EQ Bank is the preferred bank due to its several features. The hybrid chequing/savings account, no fees or minimums, and one of Canada’s best bank account interest rates are some of the reasons why EQ Bank stands out.
Do you believe this way of life is accessible or realistic for everyone?
According to the background information, it is unfair to say that the Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) way of life is accessible or realistic for everyone. Some individuals face difficult life circumstances or systemic issues that make it much harder to achieve financial stability, let alone FIRE. However, the author of the background information believes in lifting others up as we move towards FIRE. This can be done through donations, volunteering, coaching, or sharing knowledge. Additionally, supporting causes that fight against the injustices and systemic issues that plague financial systems can also help others achieve financial stability.
As a woman and BIPOC, the author of the background information tries to shine the light on a variety of people and voices in the FIRE community. By hearing from someone who looks or sounds like them, readers and listeners can be inspired to keep working towards financial stability. Therefore, while FIRE may not be accessible or realistic for everyone, there are ways to support and uplift others in their financial journeys.
In their 10 years of working in the banking industry, trying to help Canadians save for their future has proven to be a significant challenge. “You need to have money to save money,” was something they heard frequently.
To address this challenge, they recommend exploring opportunities to earn extra income. While finding a higher-paying job is one option, there are other ways to increase income. For example, hosting international homestay students, taking on extra projects or overtime shifts, picking up side hustles, or monetizing a hobby can all provide additional income.
However, they acknowledge that earning more money may not be possible for everyone due to family obligations, illness, or other challenges. In these cases, they suggest acknowledging that you’re doing your best and focusing on retiring at a traditional age rather than pursuing early retirement.
Ultimately, the key is to explore all options for increasing income and saving money, while also being realistic about what is achievable based on individual circumstances.
What Has Been One of the Most Significant Moments for You on This Journey?
The most significant moment for the author was discovering the concept of Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) and the mindset behind it. Prior to 2014, the author and her husband were on the traditional life path of working until retirement at 65. However, after discovering FIRE, their whole worldview changed, and they realized that early retirement was a realistic possibility. This realization has had a significant impact on their lives, and they are now committed to achieving FIRE.
Can you describe a time that made you want to give up? What helped you to keep going?
One partner in a couple pursuing financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) had moments of doubt about the feasibility of achieving the goal. However, they never wanted to give up. As they got closer to their goal, doubts melted away. The couple found it helpful to have a financial planner to turn to. The planner ran calculations for them and showed them that they were on the right track. Having professional help with investments and financial planning was one of the many reasons why the couple was happy. This experience highlights the importance of having a support system and seeking professional advice when pursuing financial goals.
How Has the FIRE Journey Changed Them as a Person?
Since embarking on their FIRE journey, they have become more mindful of their spending habits and the impact they have on others and the planet. The journey has helped them develop an abundance mindset, realizing that there is enough for everyone, and it’s not a zero-sum game. They can generously share their abundance, and it will spread and help others, even coming back to them in unexpected ways. Overall, the FIRE journey has helped them cultivate a more optimistic outlook on life and a deeper appreciation for the abundance that surrounds them.
Has it impacted your relationships or how you interact with friends and family?
Chrissy from Eat Sleep Breathe FI has been fortunate that her immediate and extended family are on the same page when it comes to money, and consistently do the right things with their money. Therefore, the concept of FIRE isn’t something that is foreign to them. However, when it comes to friends, Chrissy has only revealed her FIRE aspirations to a small handful, and their response has been neutral. They are neither surprised nor very interested to learn more. Chrissy is okay with this and will be available if they want to know more about FIRE, but she will never force FIRE information on them if they don’t ask.
Overall, Chrissy’s relationships with her family and friends have not been impacted by her FIRE aspirations. She continues to interact with them in the same way as before, and her FIRE journey is a personal one that she is happy to share with those who are interested.
What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew before you started FIRE?
One thing that many people wish they knew before starting their FIRE journey is how easy it can be to get started. Starting earlier can also make a huge difference. For example, if one had started investing and used the Smith Manoeuvre back when they bought their first house in 2001, they likely would have reached FIRE years ago, possibly in their thirties. By sharing their knowledge and guidance with younger family members, they hope to prevent them from ignoring their investments for years, as they did. It’s important to start early and take advantage of opportunities like the Qtrade Direct Investing offer, which provides up to $150 cashback with the promo code OFFER150.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Inspired Chrissy to Start Her FIRE Journey?
Chrissy was inspired to start her FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) journey after reading the book “The Millionaire Next Door.” She realized that she didn’t want to work for the rest of her life and wanted to achieve financial independence.
How Has Chrissy’s Journey Impacted Her Life?
Chrissy’s journey has impacted her life in many positive ways. She has been able to pay off her debt, save money, and achieve financial independence. She has also been able to pursue her passions and spend more time with her family.
What Advice Does Chrissy Have for Those Who Want to Start Their Own FIRE Journey?
Chrissy advises those who want to start their own FIRE journey to start by tracking their expenses and creating a budget. She also recommends saving as much as possible and investing in low-cost index funds.
What Are Some Challenges That Chrissy Has Faced on Her Journey?
Chrissy has faced some challenges on her journey, including dealing with unexpected expenses and staying motivated during difficult times. However, she has been able to overcome these challenges by staying focused on her goals and reminding herself of why she started her journey in the first place.
How Does Chrissy Stay Motivated Throughout Her Journey?
Chrissy stays motivated throughout her journey by setting goals and tracking her progress. She also surrounds herself with like-minded individuals and participates in the FIRE community.
What Is Chrissy’s Perspective on Embracing One’s Differences?
Chrissy believes that it’s important to embrace one’s differences and not worry about what others think. She encourages individuals to pursue their passions and live life on their own terms.