Where I Stash My Money

Where I Stash My Money

Hidden in the cat.

Seriously. The money I spend on a regular basis, the funds that I access the most, are kept inside of my cat.

He looks like this:


He holds my toonies and loonies (that’s Canadaspeak for two dollar and one dollar coins). I always keep my change in the cat, and if I need something, he’s the first person I ask to cough it up. My wife named him, but I don’t remember all the names for everything she names around the house, so I just call him the cat.

When I need money, that’s the money I use first.

I also keep a small “float” of $500 in my checking account. I use this to pay for anything that requires more than a handful of coins. However, most things go on my credit card, as I like the rewards, and that gets paid off twice a month from the float.

I don’t keep a strict budget. I just know that I have $500 in discretionary spending each month. This if for things like clothes, food, bills (excluding housing), cool new shorts, tornado fries, and dinner out. If I can’t afford something at the end of the month, like a new rear rim for my bike (curse the Lion’s Gate Bridge Bump) I have to save up for it. Many wiser people than I recommend that you track all of your spending and allocate monthly funds accordingly. This is probably something I should be doing, but right now this method works for me.

My pay, which comes every two weeks on the regular, gets split in a few ways;

  1. Paying Me: About 25% of my pay (net) goes into my investment portfolio. I have a reinvestment plan that automatically deducts $ from my chequing account and dumps it into four different Index Funds located in my TFSA and RRSP, heavy on the TFSA. Why? Here’s why.
  2. Paying Me Again: I try to put about 10% of each paycheque into an emergency/travel fund. This is a “high interest” savings account through my branch. This money goes toward emergencies (need a new suit for brother’s wedding), travel (need to travel for brother’s wedding) and emergency travel (can’t meet up at the rebel rendezvous because there’s business in the Dagobah system). Right now there is about three months worth of expenses in this highly liquid, easy to access account. I’d like there to be more, but things do come up.
  3. Large Bills: Housing, tuition, utilities, cell phone, internet, then tuition again, cause education is expensive, kids! Start saving today! Bills are split between pay periods. Small bills like Netflix are just paid out of my float. My wife contributes, of course.
  4. Paying Me AGAIN: Who’s gonna pay me like me, right? If my “float” is topped up, my bills are paid, and there’s no surprises, then I often use that money to purchase Exchange Traded Funds. I also own small amounts of common stock, but it’s rare that I invest that way. Track the indexes, kids. Praise Bogle.
  5. Leftovers: There are none. All my money is accounted for every month.

That’s where it goes.That’s where I stash it.

These aren’t large amounts of money, but I think it’s important that, if it were much less or much more, I’d still stick to keeping a small monthly float, paying myself first, and paying my bills and credit card balance each month. If I get a raise, not much will change except percentages.

If I had all the money in the world, I know what I’d do.

But I don’t, so I do this.

Leave the cat alone.


BMO Vancouver Marathon: I Didn’t Die

BMO Vancouver Marathon: I Didn’t Die

If you’re curious how I felt before the marathon, you can read about it here. These are some of my thoughts the day after.

This was goal #1. Don’t die. And I didn’t! Check mark.

Goal number two was to make it to the end. Walking, Running or Crawling. However didn’t matter – just cross the line. I did that. I didn’t quit. I crossed the finish line. Check mark.

My third goal, really my “dream goal”, what I didn’t know I could accomplish, was to run the entire race. And I do mean running; no walks, no bathroom breaks, running. I’ve never run 26 miles (42.2 Km) before. I didn’t even attempt it in training. But I really, really wanted to be able to run the whole marathon, from beginning to end.

I still remember, 10 years ago, when I was 60 or so pounds overweight and putting on my shoes to run for the first time ever in my life. I didn’t make it to the end of my street. But I kept running. The first time I was able to run 5k without stopping was a memorable day. I remember the route, the clothes I was wearing, what I was thinking about, everything. It was a milestone, an emotional one. Since then I’ve gradually pushed myself to run longer and longer distances.

Yesterday I ran a marathon, from beginning to end, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Check mark.

0 – 10 Kms: I kept a nice easy pace in the beginning. I know that there is a tendency to run fast early and burn out later, so I kept reminding myself to keep to a relaxed pace. There was a long hill at 9 – 10, but I’ve always trained with hills, especially on a treadmill, so I felt great when I pushed up it just fine.

10 – 20 Kms. Still feeling good. The weather was a lot hotter than I expected and I don’t carry water with me, so I was feeling very grateful for all the water stops and all of the volunteers manning them. Pacific Spirit Park and the UBC campus mostly. Quite pretty, and running mostly in a big pack. This makes it difficult when people suddenly stop, which they tend to do at random times or at water stations. It’s always a bit unexpected and I did crash into at least one woman.

20 -30 Kms. This was the nicest part of the run by far. Along Spanish Banks, Jericho Beach and Kitsilano. These are a few of Vancouver’s nicest beaches and the view of the oceans and mountains on a clear day is always impressive. Really pretty, more shade, and the pack had begun to thin out a bit. When I crossed the halfway point I was feeling great. I had killed my previous 1/2 marathon time and my legs felt just fine. I might have actually been smiling. However, at the half my iPod shuffle died and the music that kept me pumped and distracted was no more. Only my own steps and breathing to listen to from now on. Even so, I enjoyed myself at this time. About halfway through this leg I felt certain I was going to finish how I wanted to.

30 – 42 Kms. This was awful. Just pain and worry. My former certainty was completely gone. Things started getting hard at about 30k. My legs started to stiffen up and I felt like I was losing feeling in my right toes. This leg also starts with a hill at Burrard bridge. By the time I crested it, my legs were on fire and my right foot hurt with a stinging pain. I knew I still had to get around Stanley Park and was just dreading it. The seawall around Stanley Park is my usual run. I know every corner of it. It’s 10km of flat running, so it should be easy. But it wasn’t. Every step felt like dragging cinder blocks painfully behind me, every time I pulled one forward my thigh muscles screamed at me. I had to constantly push thoughts of quitting out of my mind. I tried to ignore the pain by imagining myself like a floating head, as if my body didn’t exist. Nothing really worked. I wanted so bad to stop. I imagined a thousand excuses why I should stop, or at least start walking for a bit. But I gave into none of them. I don’t really know how I kept going, I just refused to stop. The last 10Kms of this race was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally.

But as we know, there’s no trick, William Potter, just how you manage the pain. Right Larry?

Last Kilometre – After you get out of the park you run downtown for a bit. I hadn’t really been watching the kilometre markers too closely but at some point I saw a young guy with a sign that read “Only 700 Meters Left” and I was almost in disbelief.  It felt like that moment when you wake up from a nightmare but aren’t quite sure if you’re safe yet. When I rounded the corner on Pender St. I could actually see the finish. 500 meters left and I was still running. It was actually going to happen.

And it did. I crossed the finish line astounded with myself. Once I passed the chalk line indicating 42.2 Kilometres I immediately started walking toward the ribbon holders. The guy who put it around my neck asked how I felt. I responded, “I actually just ran a marathon.” like maybe saying it out loud would make it real.

Once I found a bottle of water I pretty much collapsed. I couldn’t stand. My legs hurt then worse then ever. How had I been running a minute ago when I can’t even stand now? My legs were both shaking and twitching. I watched them for a while. Weird. I drank two bottles of water on the ground before picking myself up to head home.

Where I ate an entire large pizza and fell asleep on the couch at 3:30pm.

What a day. A memorable one, for sure.

I actually just ran a marathon.

Post: This is what it looks like when you run a marathon and don’t want to pay for the pictures.


66 Days to Being Absolutely Ripped for Life, Part VI

66 Days to Being Absolutely Ripped for Life, Part VI

When I began my 66 day fitness journey, the details of which can be found in part I,IIIII, and IV  and V, I created these rules for my daily exercise.

  1. Get out of bed everyday and exercise
  2. However I want
  3. for 30 minutes

Ok, so I made it to 66 days. 30 minutes of exercise, through illness and work pressure and general life business, I made the time.


Here’s the transformation:

I don’t know the change in body fat percentage, but my weight went from 194 to 176. These numbers are not exact, as measuring your weight is not exact, but that’s not too shabby, is it? Not for a measly 30 minutes each day. My diet also improved, but I wasn’t counting calories, I was just trying to snack less.

But I’m not really excited about the change in my weight. It’s good for my heart, sure, but it also means that all those ‘new job’ pants that I bought in September look silly, and my belts need new holes cut into them.

What I’m really excited about is the change in my habits.

When I was explaining my 66 day plan to a friend, the reaction was not unexpected. “I wish I could find the motivation to exercise like that.” So I told him…

TO HELL WITH MOTIVATION! Motivation is fickle. Motivation is a bad one night stand. When you find it, it seems exciting, but it just leaves you empty, and wanting.

I’m not motivated to work out every day. I mean, I want to be healthy but I’m pretty sure I can do that without hitting the gym everyday. I’m married, and my wife isn’t going to leave me if I suddenly wasn’t absolutely ripped. 

Habit. That’s the ticket.

Motivation comes and goes. It’s nice when it comes, but when your motivation abandons you causing you to abandon your plan, how good is it?

A quotation sometimes attributed to Stephen King reads:

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

This doesn’t only apply to art, it applies to all aspects of your life.

One of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami, gets up each day before the sun, works for four hours, then goes for a long run. By 9:00, he’s already finished a day’s work and a day’s exercise. He’s not only one of the world’s most successful authors, he’s also an ultra marathon runner. Not only does he write interesting books about semi-depressed 30 something men with birth defects, social anxiety and a love of jazz (he gets me), he’s also, to me, got it all figured out. By making a habit of things that are hard, he’s done with them before most of us start work. Now he’s got the rest of the day to play Mario Kart or take a nap at the bottom of a well.

Don’t sit around and wait for motivation, just get to work. Put your shoes on, unroll the yoga mat, and get moving. No excuses.

There truly is nothing more powerful than habit when it comes to getting things done. Habits, rooted deeply in routine and repetition, make us who we are. It’s not hitting the gym for big lifts or running a marathon every once in a while, rather it’s doing it every day, that really changes things for us. It’s doing it every day that helps us to define who we are. Eventually, these once difficult chores become mundane, every day events. Not doing them would just feel weird. Like forgetting to eat lunch.

Nuts to motivation. I’m sticking with habit.

In the words of a famous shoe brand – just do that thing!

But that’s easier said than done!

Yep. But what isn’t?

Here are some tips that have helped keep me working out on the regular:

  1. Vary your routine. Doing the same thing every day gets boring. Give yourself options.
  2. Pick a time of day that’s consistent. I always work out when I first wake up. Yes, that means getting up at 5:40 every day, but after all this time I’m used to it. It’s feels normal.
  3. Eat well and sleep early.
  4. Podcasts. I could write several blog posts on this topic. Download podcasts to your phone and listen to comedy, books, interviews, etc. It helps.
  5. Don’t focus on the scale. If you’re eating better, and you’re exercising, it’s working. The scale isn’t your friend, check only occasionally.
  6. Find a few bad weather solution. You can’t always run or bike, but you can probably always do a body weight routine.
  7. Keep track. I find it helpful to make schedules and graphs of things.
  8. Push just a little harder every week. Add 1 extra pound to your lift, increase the speed on the treadmill from 6 to 6.1.
  9. Gym buddies. Meet people. Say hello. It’s helpful to have encouraging people around.
  10. Enjoy it. Exercise isn’t something we have to do, find the joy in becoming stronger and revel in what you’re able to accomplish today that you couldn’t do yesterday.

I have more to say on this topic, but this will be my last “absolutely ripped” post because the 66 days are up!

And because I’m on day 157. That’s right, 157 days of exercise straight. Something has clicked. Habit.

I will be, however, the last time I post a pic of myself shirtless. I’m sorry. While these days I am fully ripped  and completely shredded, you can just take my word for it.


Pheidippides’ Last Stand and My First Marathon

Pheidippides’ Last Stand and My First Marathon

When I began my 66 day fitness journey, the details of which can be found in part I,IIIII, and IV  and V, I created these rules for my daily exercise.

  1. Get out of bed everyday and exercise
  2. However I want
  3. for 30 minutes

Then I signed up for the BMO Vancouver Marathon, which is happening on May 1st. About 2 1/2 weeks from now. It was November when I signed up. At the time, I thought that signing up for a marathon, something I’ve never attempted before, would focus my effort to keep fit and have fun exercising.

It hasn’t.

I mean, I’ve been focused on exercising for certain (today is day 155) but not on running a marathon. I haven’t been doing a lot of long runs or thinking too much about carbs. I don’t own any gel packs or dry-fit t-shirts. I don’t have one of those awesome water bottle belts, and I haven’t joined a running group. But it’s been on the back of my mind, like a creeping fear or one of those things in Star Trek TNG that tried to take over earth via mind control (Season 1, Episode 25, “Conspiracy”. You’re welcome). I’m afraid of the marathon. I worry about it because I’m not sure that I can finish it.

But why should I feel confident?

The first marathon was run by a desperate man, Pheidippides, who in 490 BC ran from the battle at Marathon, without stopping, to bring news of the battle to the assembly at Athens. Roughly 25 miles.

Pheidippides was a soldier, and look how he ended up:

The First Marathon Runner: Stripped Naked and Desperate at the Finish Line. Something to look forward to. 

Wasted, on his knees. But look at those calves! This guy was a runner.

I’m not. I’ve ran a couple of half marathons, and only once as a registered participant in the Scotia Bank Half Marathon. My time was…ok. Above average for my age group, but just.

I don’t really feel like I have any business running a marathon.

However, I will run this marathon.

Because I have grit. Because I have courage.

Because sometimes it’s important to do things you feel you have no business doing to show your self that actually, you can.

I don’t think I can run 42.2 kilometers like Pheidippides did. But I will.

At the first Olympic games in 1904, 34 men signed up to run the marathon. Only 14 finished. Now tens of thousands runners, maybe more, complete marathons on the regular.

Humans, us, are always improving. Humans, us, are made up on individuals like myself. Groups improve when the individuals that make up those groups push themselves to do something more than they’ve ever done before. We grow as a species when we grow as individuals.

Have you heard of Josh Dueck?


Josh is a para-alpine skier who won gold in Sochi and silver in Vancouver. I had the pleasure of hearing Josh tell his story a few years back and he impressed me as the type of guy who understands that sometimes you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to grow.

Not only in Josh an Olympic Champion, he is also the first ever sit-skier to complete a backflip on snow. This is a guy who had already broken his back, and had so much to lose, but pushed himself anyway to do something no one has ever done beforeEver. Watch the video, it’s very cool.

Now, I’m not comparing myself to Josh. He changed the very definition of what we as humans are able to do. That’s pretty amazing. For me, the marathon is terrifying. It really is. I know the pain it’ll bring me. I know how terrible it’s going to feel climbing the Burrard Bridge after already running 30 kilometers, and I am worried that I’ll fail.

But I won’t. I’ll crawl to the end if I have to. Josh Dueck changed what people can do. I hope to change the definition of what I’m able to do, and grow as a result. Also, it’s possible that I’ll be one of the very few (only? Don’t know) person with a Complete Atrioventricular Block to attempt a marathon, which would be cool, but I don’t know if that’s the case or not. What matters is that I try, because only by trying do we improve.

Like Captain Picard, when he blasted the mind control parasites to free the Federation from alien conspiracy, I have no choice but to make it so, and run the dam race.

And one day, like Pheidippides, maybe people will take my picture, not necessarily naked, crawling to the finish line to announce the end of a battle I’ve won against my own fear.

Here’s hoping.

What Lawrence of Arabia Taught Me About Grit

What Lawrence of Arabia Taught Me About Grit

Do you remember this scene form Lawrence of Arabia? Peter O’Toole, the titular character, is awaiting assignment with a few other officers. Lawrence lights a cigarette then hold’s the match between his thumb and forefinger and until it burns out.

Impressed, William Potter tries to do the same – until he shouts in pain and throws the match to the ground.

William Potter: Oh, It damn well hurts!

 Other officer: So what’s the trick then?

 Lawrence: The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.

There. That’s it. Everything you need to know about grit.

Things are hard. Working full time while completing an MA is hard. Going to the gym every single day is hard. Losing weight is hard. Running a marathon is hard, and it hurts.

Other people, stronger people, deal with things that are much, much harder every single day.

Have you watched Bojack Horseman? It’s pretty funny, but even if you’re not interested in animal puns and depressed, alcoholic equine, this scene makes an important point. It’s the final scene from the second season.

Turning your life around is also hard. Making good decisions is hard, but you gotta do it every day so that it gets easier.

If I’m chatting about my work or fitness, people have occasionally asked me how I “do it.” I would shrug and say, “I don’t know, I just do it.”

I think what they are asking is, “What’s the trick?”

I never really had a good answer before I watched Lawrence of Arabia one Sunday afternoon a few years back. Then it clicked. It’s a great movie, but this is one of my favourite scenes of all time ever filmed.

After Lawrence speaks, William Potter walks off looking confused. As if he doesn’t get it, as if Lawrence was keeping his trick a secret. Of course he’s not, he’s just saying, very simply –

There is no trick.

Sometimes things hurt. Sometimes they’re hard. That’s ok. Suffering through the hardship of burned fingertips is so unimaginable to William Potter that there must be some magic to it. But there’s no magic.

The match burns all fingers equally. The only trick is how you deal with it.