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Frugal living in Tokyo vs Vancouver vs San Francisco

Updated on January 11, 2012

I've lived in Tokyo, San Francisco and Vancouver, All cities at the top of most expensive cities to live on the planet. My friends are amazed at how well my family lives on our meagre budget. Here are my tips on how to live like a King on a beer budget.

Move to the West Coast of Canada. The most important thing you can provide your family is good health. If you are a self-employed parent your biggest worry is one of your children getting sick. What if your son is born prematurely and needs to spend months in a juvenile intensive care unit or Jane suffers head trauma in a skiing accident. Canada has a national health care plan. Every citizen is covered. The province of BC is a wonderland of mountains, oceans and haunting misty forests that makes playing outdoors easy (except during the rainy winter). You can spend the morning skiing and be kayaking with seals in the afternoon.

After looking after your family's health, shelter is the next priority. With less than a 2% vacancy rate you'll need to use all your resourcefullness here. It takes very little carpentry skills to turn a 2 bedroom into a 3 bedroom using a frame of 2x4's and shoji screen to divide a room. Bunkbeds are an efficient way to maximize free floor space. If you have a large family use benches around the dining table to avoid a clutter of chairs eating up your floor space. Use a futon bed that folds into a sofa during the day to add another bedroom. Get a unit with a fireplace. My friends in Ottawa (the 2nd coldest capital city on the planet) spend $900 for their hydro in January, Keep your eyes open for wooden pallets. Break them up and use them for firewood.

Transportation. Buy bicycles and a Burley bike trailer instead of a car. I spend an average of $80 for a used bike in good running order at the second hand shops in my nighbourhood at Cheapskates. Besides letting you get around, you're keeping your family active and healthy. I've moved apartments and carried tons of groceries in my Burley trailer.

Take advantage of the waste in the city. There are three bakeries close to my house. On rainy days when business is slow they end up throwing away bags and bags of bread. Talk to the owner and they might be happy to gfve you free or a cur-rate deal.

Guerrilla gardening. You'll meet some cool people and your kids will learn about nature. Hike around and get to know the apple trees, cherry trees, blackberry bushes, fiddleheads, chanterelle mushrooms spots in the region.

Keep you eyes on the bins. At my complex I've salvaged lamps, 2 desks, fans, coffee makers, futon frames, 2 working computers, wifi router, an armoire, DVD players and even a deep freeze. Besides saving money you're helping the environment.

I'd like to hear your ideas for living frugally. Drop me an email or leave a comment.

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