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:

41l3x72bcmol-_sy300_

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.

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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.

 

How to Get Away With Dating While Married

How to Get Away With Dating While Married

When you get married, as I have gone and done, you assume you are done with dating for good. And thank dog, right? Who needs it. Dating is expensive, making reservations is annoying, it’s difficult to find new activities all the time, conversation can be awkward and ..it’s a chore.

I never enjoyed dating. I liked meeting new people … sometimes, but dating was almost never fun. Maybe that’s just me. I hated retelling my story over and over to women who never seemed that interested. I found myself in too many month long nothing relationships that neither party really cared about. It kind of sucked.

Then I met this lady.

She likes soup and tells hilarious jokes.

On our first date, my wife and I went to a nice restaurant together. We wore decent clothes, had a delicious meal with drinks, appies and dessert, and got to know each other over the course of an hour or so.

I was pretty sure it was just another date and wouldn’t really lead anywhere, but we ended up married a few years later.

Who knew!?

So, it turns out, my wife (to respect her anonymity, let’s call her…Butt Toast) likes to go on dates. Butt Toast likes appetizers, deserts and fancy conversations. She likes getting dressed up and going out sometimes. This behaviour is strange and confusing to me. Doesn’t she know that we have food and chairs at home? And we talk all the time.

"What time will you be home?"
"Do we need eggs?"
"Don't write about me on your blog"

All the time

But, because I want to be a good husband to Butt Toast, I take her on dates.

Every month we plan a date. Sometimes I plan it in secret, sometimes we plan it together, but we’ve both come to enjoy the “what do you want to do for our _______ date?” conversation. Last month we went to a top restaurant, this month another, but we’ve done all sorts of fun stuff on our monthly dates. It’s always something to look forward to, it gives Butt Toast an opportunity to wear something other than her Winnie the Pooh vest (she has literally been wearing this thing for over 20 years) and I’m finding that when you go on a date with someone who you feel something other than indifference towards, you actually have fun!

Monthly Wife Dates.

You should try it, right Kanye?

 

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.

Yay!

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:

phidippides
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?

o-josh-dueck-facebook

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.

Hey Millennials, Do Your Own Taxes!

Hey Millennials, Do Your Own Taxes!

“I don’t need to. My mom’s accountant always does my taxes for me! “

picture-46_0 – This Guy

Well, guess what? Your mom’s accountant doesn’t give a bag of duck manure about your financial situation. Do you know what he cares about? He cares about the groceries in his fridge and whether or not he can turn them into dinner. He cares about how he is going to pick up Marty from soccer and Annabelle from piano when Jennifer is at an overnight accountant’s retreat in Montreal until Wednesday. He cares about the Canucks, his stock market portfolio, his fantasy basketball team, and House of Cards. He cares about his taxes. He doesn’t care about you.

Not, at least, as much as you do.

Do you own taxes. It’s not that a professional accountant will do a poor job, it’s just that they can’t possibly be as invested as you should be in making sure it’s done right.

Now, fine, if you have a very complicated tax situation, such as if you own your own large business or have a multitude of registered investments, it may be better to seek professional help. For the rest of us, it’s easy.

Start by registering with the CRA. Just create a new account. That will give you access to least year’s Notice of Assessment, which you’ll need. Download it.

Next, collect your T4 (statement of employment income). It should come in the mail form your employer. If you’ve made money in mutual funds, you’ll have a T3, or in stocks, a T5. They’ll come in the mail from your bank.

If you have other income, I hope you’ve kept your receipts. Also receipts from charitable donations, professional or union dues, tuition and textbooks, etc will be important. Now log into one of these free or inexpensive tax software programs and get started.

SimpleTax

TurboTax

UFile

I use UFile because it’s free if you’re still in school. SimpleTax is a “pay what you feel” model. I know that TurboTax gets good reviews, but I’ve never tried it.

Now, do your taxes.

If you think you don’t know how, you’re wrong. The tax software will start with an “interview” that gathers up all important information about you. Are you in school? Do you have a job or are you self employed? Do you have a disability? A dependant? How many? Once you’ve finished this section, the tax software with then only present you with the tabs that you need to fill out, specific to your tax situation. Then just fill in the blanks. They are numbered. It’s simple. When you’re finished, hit submit. You’re done.

I have one job and I’m in school. I also have some investments. My taxes take me about 15 minutes each year. My wife is self employed, so hers take about a half an hour because we have to add up receipts for gas and electricity and other items from her home office.

But seriously, an hour tops. And we’re doing it right. How do I know? I’ve been audited, and no errors in my accounting have been found. I always get a nice refund. Tax software also protects you from making grave errors, and it does this all live as your working.

When you do your own taxes, you’re also likely to become much better at tax planning. You begin to see how you can improve your tax situation each year and begin make it so you’re paying less and less tax through careful planning. This is probably the greatest benefit of doing your own taxes – becoming informed.

You’ll be fine.

Just do your taxes.

No one cares as much as you. No one will be as careful as  you.

Will they, Kanye?

 

 

The Tesla Model 3 vs. my Mazda3

The Tesla Model 3 vs. my Mazda3

Do you like to consume? I do. I consume a couple of eggs with veggies each morning (thanks wife), then leftovers for lunch and a home cooked meal for dinner. Dinner is the hardest part, because my wife and I don’t usually get home from work until 6:30, so it’s only around 7:30 that we eat, but it’s almost always a home cooked meal.

What I don’t like to consume is consumer products. But it’s a small percentage of us who feel that way in North America. Most people love buying stuff.

Take, for example, the Tesla Model 3. Within 24 hours of the March 31st announcement, there have been 180 000 preorders for this car. At an average cost of $42 000, Elon Musk has sold about 7.5 Billion dollars worth of cars in a single day. Not bad. With the current exchange rate the “electric car for the masses” costs around $55 000 for Canadians.

I don’t know how many Canadians bought these cars, but I did have to step over the people sleeping in line at the dealership the other day, and I hear this scene in Vancouver was similar to the lines outside dealerships in Toronto and Montreal.

So lots of people want this car. I get it, it’s fancy. But isn’t $42 000 a lot for a car? In 2014, the average Canadian’s salary was $49 000 a year. The average American’s salary was $41 392.

So, how is this possible? Surely these people aren’t spending 100% of their income on a new car are they? It must be only the ultra rich who spend this much on a car, right? Nope. Elon Musk chose this prince point because $35 000 (the cost of the lowest trim Model 3) is exactly what the average consumer paid for a new car in 2015.

Holy crow, $35 000?

Hey everyone, stop it. That’s too much.

If the average Canadian is spending this much, it means that they are going into debt for their vehicles. This is poor financial planning. Cars are depreciating assets, that $35 000 will essentially be scrap in a few years. What are you doing?

When I bought my first car last year, I did a lot of research. I read over and over that people should spend 1/10 of their gross annual income on their vehicle. This rule is everywhere online.

Ok, it’s not a rule, but doesn’t it make sense? You may LOVE cars, fair enough, If you do then you’re going to spend whatever you want, but let’s do the math. Just because. The new Tesla Model 3 vs. my 2008 Mazda3.

The base model Model 3 costs $35 000 USD or $45 527 Canadian. My 2008 Mazda3 was $8000 in 2015. This was 1/10 of my salary. Slightly less, actually. If I wanted the Model 3 instead and, let’s just say that I had $45 527 to spare, that’s a difference of $37 527. If the life of a car is eight years, that $37 527 would grow (if invested at a conservative 6%) to 59,812.34 in that time. Buying the Model 3 would mean missing out on potentially $22 285 free dollars.

Now imagine you didn’t have any cash lying around and needed a car loan. A 5 year loan at 5% would price the Model 3 at $ 54,276.43, whereas my Mazda3 would total $10,210.25. That’s about $900 a month for the Tesla, or $170 a month for my Mazda.

No, I don’t love cars, but they’re necessary tools so that’s how I see them. It drives me to work when I can’t bike, and that’s about it.

Here’s the breakdown;

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 4.42.19 PM

If you absolutely have to have a $35 000 car, go ahead and get one. I’m not your boss. But the truth is, you’ll probably need to do into debt to do it, and from my point of view that’s just not worth it.

What to do instead? Save up some money while you read some reviews, maybe Consumer Reports, and find a car that suits your needs. Then spend some time pricing the ones available in your area, pay to have one or two inspected by a mechanic (this costs about $125-$150 in Vancouver, but will save you much, much more) and if everything checks out, buy yourself a reliable, (probably Japanese) used car. Then take what you would have had in monthly payments and put it into your investment account. Hopefully, in a few years when you need a new car, the savings (properly invested) will make it feel like it’s paying for itself.

Bam. Free cars for life. (Kind of) (Not really, but it could feel like it!)

Elon, you made something very pretty and I hope that it helps the electric car movement to grow, but it’s just not for me. Maybe when someone else has paid the depreciation and they start to show up on Craigslist in 2023, but not just yet.