0049 – Frugality is Questioning the Normal – Interview with Nicolas Berube Part 2

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. 🙂

More Nicola

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.

0048 – Cycling Through Europe – Interview with Nicolas Berube

Imagine that you have a magic marker. It looks like the usual whiteboard companion, but it has secret that only you know about. You see, with this marker, you can go into any store, pick any item off the shelf, and write your own price on it. And when you go to the checkout, they accept your price, no matter what it is, and everybody walks away happy.

Where can you get this magic marker? You already own it! It’s called creativity. It’s also called adventurousness. Or flexibility. With those tools, you can name your own price for almost anything, especially travel.

In this episode we are talking about a great strategy for frugal travel for the bold and time-rich.

Travel is a prominent goal for most people in the personal development community. And while travel in itself isn’t personal development, many people have found the change in surroundings to be a powerful stimulant of creativity, finding new angles on old problems, inspiration and introspection.

That is why it’s an important topic for Valiant Growth – especially how do it in a way that is light on your finances. Burning through your savings can take the fun out of a lot of things, travel included. I’ve talked previously about my own story of hitchhiking through Europe, both as part of an interview on Radical Personal Finance (which went into a lot more strategies, and has been released just before this episode on the feed) and also in episode 32 of Valiant Growth.

At the end of that episode, I invited listeners to get in touch if the have an interesting and informative travel story to tell. That’s the offer that Nicolas, a listener and supporter of the show has taken on and he’s got a strategy that I’m convinced many of you will find quite appealing.

Nicola has taken upon himself to travel in South-Western Europe with nothing but a (well-equipped) bike, his tent and good fortune on his side.

Nicola’s story has left me with a lot to think about. That it’s not unreasonable to say that adventure is truly a matter of creativity and daring and not of money. That we often underestimate the kindness of strangers, and thus miss out on opportunities that could really positively influence our outlook on the species in general. That for the cost of a fancier gym membership, you could do what Nicola did, and make getting in shape and staying active an organic part of your life rather than a jarring interruption of the day in a sterile, artificial environment.

You may think that this kind of stuff is not something you can do, that there’s no way you could take the brake, or convince your family, or bike the distance. To that I say – it’s up to you. If this sounds like an adventure worth remembering, you can make it happen.

If you have any questions on the subject, please post them in the comments section of this episode at valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/48 – Nicola assured me that he’d be very happy to give you some pointers to get you on the road!

I was also interested to hear Nicola’s tactics for staying frugal given his different life station and circumstances – that will be the subject of our next episode.

See Nicola’s interview with Mister Money Mustache (French)

Please consider donating to the podcast

Out and About – Radical Personal Finance – Tips to Hitchhike Europe (or Anywhere Else) on $40 a Week (with a Food Budget of $2 Per Day!) Interview with Philip Frey from Valiant Growth

I’ve started releasing guest appearances I’ve made on other podcasts. The first one is an interview with Joshua Sheats on Radical Personal Finance about hitchhiking and budget travel in general. I share my experiences and we both go in depth on tactics around hitchhiking, housing, transport and ultralight backpacking.

Here are Joshua’s show notes:

Do you wish to set out and travel but feel like you lack the money? Well, what if you did it anyway and just adjusted your style of travel to fit a more modest budget?

My guest today is long-time listener of the show, Philip Frey. A few years ago he did exactly that.

He set out across Europe with a schoolmate and they managed to cobble together a very fun trip on a very modest budget!

In today’s show we discuss Philip’s experiences and advice for how to replicate a trip like his.

I also share some of my tips and ideas for how I would approach a trip like this for myself.

Enjoy the show!



0046 – Day 21 of the Early Retirement Extreme 21 Day Makeover – Investing for Early Retirement Part 2

On the final day of the 21 day ERE makeover (but only penultimate of the series), Jacob addresses a simplified approach to investing, called Dogs of the Dow.

Original article at http://earlyretirementextreme.com/day-21-investing-for-early-retirement.html

A more detailed discussion of the ERE philosophy at http://valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/e30

Get Early Retirement Extreme The Book at http://valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/ere

Donate to the podcast at http://valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/support

0046 – Day 20 of the Early Retirement Extreme 21 Day Makeover – Own Classics

Frugality and high-quality products are not antithetical – you just have to own classics.

Join http://forum.earlyretirementextreme.com for ERE specific advice, and http://valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/community to meet fellow Valiant Growth listeners.

Original article at http://earlyretirementextreme.com/day-20-own-classics.html

A more detailed discussion of the ERE philosophy at http://valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/e30

Get Early Retirement Extreme The Book at http://valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/ere

Donate to the podcast at http://valiantgrowth.philipfrey.co.uk/support