What I Learned About Money From A Vancouver Cabbie

resized2_8656

“Hey, I need to get to No. 3 and Williams.”

“There’s a flat fee of $24,” he said.

I closed the door. “Um, okay.” We drove off. It was 1am.

Jesus, that was high. Any other cab would’ve brought me there for $15. Then again, I was hopping a ride from YVR, so there must’ve been a premium I wasn’t aware of. I’d just spent my evening having drinks in an airport bar with my friend during her layover, and it was now past SkyTrain hours. I didn’t really have a choice. I’d just take the hit, I thought. Nights like this didn’t happen often.

We drove in silence for a while. I rolled the window down, and watched the streetlights roll past. My Booker’s bourbon was kicking in. If I weren’t a little buzzed, I never would’ve agreed to $24. I mean, fuck… $24 for a $15 ride? That’s infuriating! Who did this guy think he was? I spoke up.

“Why is this ride $24?” I asked.

“Here’s the map. Flat fee.” He handed it to me. Right on the border of a $20 zone and a $24 zone was No. 3 and Williams. Naturally, he decided to charge me for the more expensive option. I tried to be the nice guy.

“Oh, can you drop me off at No. 3 and Francis instead then?” I said. “I can walk.”

His entire demeanour changed immediately. I could tell he regretted showing me the map. He took it from me and squirrelled it away. I didn’t think it was that big a deal, but for him, it was. Like I’d somehow cheated him out of extra money.

“Sorry,” I said. “Um… how’s your night going?”

“I need longer fares,” he said angrily. “Now, I’m only giving a $20 ride.”

If I recall correctly, this was around the time I stopped giving a fuck. I mean, WHAT?!? You’re already overcharging me for a ride, and you’re getting pissed off that I’m following YOUR rules and you’re not even PRETENDING to give good service anymore? Fuck right off. This was a difference of FOUR DOLLARS, the price of a single bougie coffee. Like, I understand this taxi company isn’t your brand so you don’t have to see the consequences of your shitty service, but how bad is your money situation that $4 is the difference between you being a nard and being a happy human being? I was right pissed. This guy could get bent.

He dropped me off at No. 3 and Francis, and I put it on my card. He drove off. 10 minutes from home, I started to walk.

The anger dissipated quickly. It was a cool night, and I realized I needed the air. I remembered that my dad used to be a cabbie too, and in a 12-hour shift, all those $4 increments would add up. Maybe if 20 people did that, he’d be out $80. I gave my head a shake. I was one guy, not 20. I’d “cost him” $4. That was it. Four blocks away now.

He’d reacted so angrily to me following his rules though. Maybe it was the expectation? Like, he expected $24, but he’d only gotten $20? That must be frustrating. But then I thought, “When is $4, one time, so crucial to a person’s happiness that their entire demeanour changes? How poorly off do you need to be?”

Suddenly, I had nothing but sympathy. Three blocks away, I felt sorry for him. I didn’t know his situation. He could have kids that counted on him. It doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but it at least made it understandable.

Two blocks away, I suddenly realized that I was getting bent out of shape over $4. Not even $4, but $4 I didn’t even have to pay. For a piercing moment, I understood how fortunate I was, and put aside my anger. I’m choosing not to name the cab driver. I’m choosing not to name the cab company. I’m just letting it be.

In fact, after all this, I should be thanking him. He reminded me how privileged I was, and he deepened my resolve for financial independence. I want to have $4 not matter. I want to have $400 not matter. I want to have $4,000 not matter.

One block from home, I forgave him, and realized wealth wasn’t so much a number but a state of mind. Wealth is what happens when your life is so good, other people can’t even affect it by being intentionally shitty.

I unlocked the door to my condo and turned the lights on. Fuck $4.

Looking back on it now, I should’ve given him a tip.

Space Is Your Greatest Asset

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 9.29.05 PM

Everywhere you look now, space is at a premium. Parking a car in Vancouver for three hours can set you back $21. Fifty square feet of storage in Toronto can cost you $193/month. According to Rentseeker, my 3-bedroom in Richmond would rent for $1,644! Somehow, we’ve all just accepted that space is expensive, even though the price for renting that space is often flat-out stupid! What if we decided to end the madness? What if, instead of being gouged for square footage, we found a way to make our existing space work for us instead of the other way around? Well, listed below are a few ways you can cash in. You don’t need to live in a mansion either. I’m just a regular guy who recognized an opportunity. You might realize there’s been a cash cow in your backyard all along.

First, the obvious: Get roommates. You don’t have to live alone. I’ve done the math, and by March 2018, I’ll be back to “no rent and no bills” because of what I make from them. I’m sacrificing my home office to make it work, but not really. I’m just moving my office to my currently underutilized living room. To get even more advanced, consider getting into Airbnb if you have a spare room! Here’s an article about it. For the nitty-gritty, here’s another! If that all sounds too stressful, rent to friends because you can still make extra cash in unique circumstances. We still “put people up in our storage closet for about $300/month”, and my friends all know they can come to me if things ever get weird, like if they suddenly get evicted or a relationship splits up. This was my first step. If you’re willing to bring other people into your space, you can profit immensely.

In another example, this book describes how its author uses an MRP (Multi-unit Residential Property) to live rent-free. He even advocates going as extreme as buying a fourplex, renting out three units, and living in only one! In 1999 though, he bought his first duplex and started paying into it. The property was $109,000 in Calexico, CA and his monthly payment was around $900. He lived in one apartment and rented the other for $800/month. That $800 plus his $100 “rent” went straight into home equity! I suspect he’s doing quite well now. This is common and basic optimization of real estate. You probably know a bunch of people doing something similar right now.

I also discovered you don’t need a full room or apartment available to make money. When my dad died, I sold my van, took over his car, and now my parents’ two-car garage in New Westminster has one space open. (I live a few towns over in Richmond.) Remember how expensive storage can be? Well, I know someone desperately in need of storage space. Instead of gouging them though, I’m letting them use that space for $50/month. It’s slightly less convenient for everyone because I’d have to accompany them whenever they need access, but they’d save (and I’d earn) hundreds! It’s win-win because I get to profit, they get to save, and I’ve effectively done a favour for them! It’s great!

Live near an event space? Here in Vancouver, near our local fairgrounds, residents open up their driveways for people to park. Last I checked, the fair itself charges $20 for parking, so let’s say we charge $15/car. Well, if you have a property width of 14.5 metres and a large enough backyard, YOU CAN PARK FIVE VEHICLES LEGALLY. $75/day for a month? That’s over $2,000! Everyone should be doing something like this! You can even monetize a small patch of dirt on the sunny side of your building! I’d gladly pay $50 for a garden space during the summer if I didn’t already have one. We all have access to space that’s “ours”, so let’s use it!

These are just a few examples, but every bit of space in your home should have a job. Let it make money for you. I’m a few thousand richer every year because I abide by that. Can you do the same and live rent-free? Tell us in the comments.

Roommate #2.5, or Why “K” Plans to Live in His Van

74067_10150292145735492_378028_n

If you’re willing to look at renting from a weirder angle, you could save about $1,200/month like “K”. This is how.

FYI: This is about more than van-living. Read on.

*****

First, my situation: My place has housed three people before, but since we’re now back down to two, we’ve readopted a revolving door policy for friends to come and go as they please. When we do this, we generally have one- or two-month arrangements and put people up in our storage closet for about $300/month. Since our guests only sleep in there and are free to use the rest of our apartment anytime, this is actually a lot nicer than it sounds. We have multiple TVs, a fully stocked kitchen, 1.5 bathrooms, and even an office! As proof of concept, we actually have a guest with us next month – “J”. She’s looking for a more permanent space with her boyfriend, but until she finds the perfect place, she doesn’t want to sign another lease. We make a little bit of rent money, and she has the flexibility to keep looking. Everybody wins!

Our friend “K” is gonna win hard in a few months too. Unfortunately, his current situation is a real money pit. In his own words: im paying 1375 plus hydro and internet which bring it to 1500. my plan is to sell my jeep for 14000 and get a 2007 Mercedes sprinter for the same amount roughly. i figure it will cost about 1000 to convert it into a living space, since it will just be a bed, side table and closet cause i dont need to have a kitchen or toilet. [More on this in a second.] ive lived in a honda crv(which was fucking terrible) then a jeep cherokee which was a bit better. then [“R”] and i lived in a mini van that we built a bed frame in and put a double matress with curtains and a battery system to power fans and our laptops without using the vans battery. also we had a solar panel on the roof to charge the electric system”.

Yup, he’s planning on living in a van. But wait! It’s actually WAY better than it sounds! Why? HE GETS TO USE OUR PLACE AS A HOMEBASE TOO! And he’s not sleeping in our storage closet, meaning I can still have short-term guests! WTF, RIGHT?!?

I should probably back up and explain. When “K’s” lease is up at his $1,375/month apartment (that costs him $1,500 after bills), we have an arrangement set up. He will, essentially, become our Roommate #2.5. His plan involves sleeping in his van, but he’ll also be living with us, using our kitchen, bathroom, and office space during the day. He’ll be paying ~$300/month, and in return, he’ll have access to all our amenities, like Internet, running water, and an actual goddamn mailing address. He won’t have any real bills! On paper, he lives here. In reality, the van is home, and because of that, he has the flexibility to take his home wherever he might need to go, whether it’s a job site or a vacation destination! Also, THIS FREES UP ~$1,200/MONTH OF HIS MONEY! Over just one year, HE SAVES ~$14,400 AND I MAKE ~$3,600! Again, everybody wins! It’s like a sort of “friend economy”. Instead of paying strangers for their services or housing, pay FRIENDS for what THEY can provide. Money and favours keep circulating amongst the people you care about, and everyone becomes richer because of it! Friend Economy 101!

Obviously, this really only works for young, single people like “K”. You can’t raise a family in a van. It’s hard to argue with the savings for people who can make this work though! In Vancouver, where a 1-bedroom goes for $1,900, having access to an apartment’s amenities while sleeping in your own space for ~$300 is a steal! Of course, finding opportunities like this isn’t gonna be a walk in the park. This is just one isolated example of a millennial living unconventionally, and saving shitloads because of it.

When possible, use and rely on your friends. “K” found cheap housing. “J” found a temporary place to stay until she lines up the perfect home. I found extra rent money. It’s actually ridiculous things like this don’t happen more often. If we all functioned better as a real community, maybe we’d all be a few thousand richer.

That’s the kind of world I want to live in. I’d sleep in a van too if it meant being able to invest an extra $1,200/month. Would you?