I’m Not Cheap!

“I’m frugal!”

Rings a bell to anyone? Are you having a bad case of déjà vu?

Honestly, I often say as a joke that I’m cheap, since that is the general opinion of people faced with frugal choices. Oh, and I don’t really care what people think anyway.

I once said this in front of my aunt, who also tends to make wise choices with her money. She then said, “No, you’re not cheap. You’re just like me, you like to pay the right price.”

I thought that was pretty accurate.

Or, in the same vein, there’s the 3rd rule of acquisition for the Ferengi in Star Trek:

Never spend more for an acquisition than you have to.

Yes, I may be a little too inclined to assess everything in dollar terms. For some, that makes me Scrooge McDuck or a Ferengi, for you Trekkies out there. However, I do make judicious choices in order to get closer to my goals faster, and never at the expense of others. In fact, just by looking at my net worth‘s progression in the past year, I like to think it’s working out pretty well. It may be extreme for some, but I prefer this extreme to the alternative.

Mindless Spending

With the exception of my aunt, many people around me are very good at practising mindless spending, which I believe can only be detrimental to their financial health. By mindless spending, I mean those who spend on anything and everything, on the spur of the moment, without comparing or looking for a better price.

For example, I went to the hardware store with my mother the other day to buy something specific for her garden. As soon as we walked in the door, she saw a BBQ on sale for $250 plus tax. She immediately said, “I’ll buy it”!

In my opinion, if I hadn’t been there, she would have come home with a new BBQ. Fortunately, I was able to calm her down. I reminded her that she already has a working BBQ. That even though it’s not very new and shiny, you can still make delicious meals with it. You understand now what I mean by mindless spending? This potential expense was not thought out and planned in any way. She would have walked out of the hardware store with almost $300 less in her pocket when all she was going to buy was a $3 gizmo.

In short, the wise words of Pierre-Yves McSween come to mind. Mom, do you really need it?

Conversely, in my case, every expense is analyzed and calculated. And I always make sure I pay the right price on everything.

Find Deals

I’m not saying to jump on every bargain. Because, of course, the best deal is the one that costs nothing. But for some unavoidable expenses, it is good to bargain shop.

I have to come back to the subject of groceries, yes. What can I say, it’s a big chunk of the budget. So it’s absolutely important to pay the right price.

Why would I buy my pound of ground meat for $6 when I know it’s $3 on sale elsewhere? Some may say that they don’t like to do multiple stores for a lack of time or they don’t want to go the distance. Well, if those reasons applied, I’d simply go without ground meat that week. I would buy something else on sale.

Of course, this also applies to just about anything else. Anything you want to buy deserves to be carefully shopped and compared. Just taking the time to shop around will calm down your impulsivity. So, why buy something at full price in one place, if it is at a better price or at a discount elsewhere?

Making Your Own Coffee

I may sound like a bit of a hypocrite, since my monthly reviews show some recurring visits to Starbucks. However, you should know that out of my 14 coffees per week (yes, two a day), only one comes from Starbucks.

Because yes, it doesn’t make sense to pay $3 for a coffee every time.

Not when I know that my cup of homemade coffee costs me about 6 cents. Starbucks coffee may be delicious, but it’s certainly not 50 times more delicious than my coffee at home. So, yes, I do indulge, but only occasionally.

Want another example of outrageous prices? The other day I had the bright idea to try an iced coffee at Starbucks. So I order the same recipe as usual, but with ice. It was 1$ more expensive. For what? Ice (which takes up space), and therefore, I end up with less coffee!

Let me tell you, I’ll make some at home in the future. Otherwise, the one at McDonald’s is $1 all summer. 😉

Cooking Your Own Meals

With restaurants reopening, maybe you feel like rushing in for a good meal.

Well, I don’t.

The other day I made a delicious tuna tartare for me and my partner. At Metro, the tuna (tartar grade, I might add) was on sale for $8.99/lb. With homemade cheese chips, a small spinach salad and cucumber slices, I estimate that the meal came to a maximum of $6 per person. Since it was all unprocessed food, it was literally tax free!

Now, how much would it have cost me at the restaurant? A plate of tartar is easily $25 on the menu. Probably more. I don’t know, I rarely go to restaurants. Then, of course, there are the taxes and tip, so it’s really $33 minimum out of pocket.

And that’s with a glass of water. That’s without even adding a glass of wine! While a glass of a nice cheap bottle at the SAQ is $2-3, at the restaurant we’re talking more than $10. And once again, you have to add taxes and the tip.

In short, between the two, I know which one I prefer. Especially since my tartar was really delicious! I wouldn’t have had the feeling of satisfaction of having cooked a good meal nor the compliments from my partner if we had gone to a restaurant. 🙂

Go for Second-Hand Goods

Whether it’s items donated by a loved one, purchases made at a thrift store or from a third party via Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, etc., this is a great way to pay the right price on a variety of things.

By the way, we’ve just passed the moving season in Quebec. You may have noticed the multitude of things that people are trying to get rid of at a loss? Or, at any time of the year, people who get rid of clothes in good condition, simply because they are “out of fashion,” or because they no longer fit? To get rid of them, they must necessarily sell at a fraction of the price they paid.

As an example, let’s say I need a nice jacket for work for the occasional important video conference. Instead of paying $100 for one new in a store, I can find one for $20 on Marketplace. It can be a bit difficult to find something that fits perfectly. However, for a piece of clothing that you’re going to wear occasionally, it’s worth the cost.

If you take advantage of these bargains, you can dress or furnish your home for very little money, while reducing your ecological footprint. By letting others absorb most of the real price tag, you consume less and keep more money in your pocket!

Time Is Money

Since most of us work for an hourly wage, it’s wise to remember that time is literally money. So if you had no choice but to spend, I hope you paid the right price.

Indeed, let’s say you bought a gadget of some sort for $500, not knowing that it was discounted to $400 elsewhere, or even going for $250 on Kijiji. Do you have any idea how much that extra $100 or $250 spent really means?

If you want a little reality check, take that amount and divide it by your net hourly wage. You’ll see how many hours you had to work just to pay that amount, only to throw it out the window. You didn’t just waste your money, you wasted your time. And time is precious!

Or, as my partner likes to calculate, see how many units of your favourite ETF that is. Two hundred and fifty dollars is 9 XEQT that won’t appreciate in your portfolio. 😉

Of course, it’s even worse to do the math if it was mindless spending on something you didn’t really need.

After doing the exercise, maybe you’ll try to avoid paying more than necessary.

Conclusion

So, I may look cheap to some, but I prefer to make wise choices that will positively impact my long-term financial health. If I spend money to please others, who will really benefit from it? Certainly not my wallet!

As Nicolas Bérubé said in his book Les millionnaires ne sont pas ceux que vous croyez (loose translation: Millionaires are not who you think they are):

Every purchase hurts our ability to grow rich, to build our financial independence and our ability to use our time as we see fit – now and in 10, 30 or 50 years.

Cheap, frugal, thrifty, call it what you will. As my aunt says so well: I like to pay the right price. Sometimes the price is $0, if I just don’t feel I need it.

And yourself, do you make certain financial choices that have your loved ones a bit confused? By watching their mindless spending, do you feel like teaching them some frugal basics sometimes?

Don’t hesitate to tell me about it.

See you next time!

June 2021 Review

Hello!

I can hardly believe that June is already over, let alone that we’re halfway through 2021!

I believe that anyone who aspires to reach FI has a special focus on the notion of time. Well, let me tell you, it sometimes feels to me like time is slipping away!

I don’t know about you, but this perception of time flying by is increased tenfold in the summer. The good weather is already very short-lived in Quebec, we don’t need for time to go to warp speed! Honestly, I can’t wait to enjoy it a bit more, without the dreaded 9 to 5! Getting 35 hours a week back is so appealing to me, especially after a short vacation week this month. I want more!

Anyway, during this short month, I took the opportunity to soak up some vitamin D, bike, run, hike, read and spend time with family and friends (now that it’s finally allowed!) and… I neglected my blog.

Don’t worry, I’m still very much invested in my goals. I just need to find the right balance for writing in a slightly busier schedule. 🙂

Net Worth as of June 30, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,533
$45,730
$48,117
$37,587
$6,233
$14,743
$2,435
Total assets:$156,378
Liabilities
Car loan:
Line of credit:
Credit cards:
$4,154
$0
$1,787
Total liabilities:$5,941
Net Worth$150,437
Difference+$9,974

That’s a substantial increase! Yes, a $9,974 more in net worth! You don’t see that every month. It’s also a $32,632 increase (or 28 %) for this first half of the year. I  just love how the snowball effect is getting bigger and bigger!

Let me also turn your attention to my total assets. I remembered that at this time last year, I was particularly proud to cross the $100,000 mark. Well, one year later, I’ve already crossed the $150,000 mark by increasing my assets by over $56,000! Out of my own pocket, I contributed about $28,650. How is that for spectacular returns? It won’t always be this way, of course, but it’s pretty nice to see.

The same can’t be said for crypto at the moment. Are we already in for a multi-year bear market again? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I continue my dollar-cost averaging, especially for projects with excellent long-term potential like VeChain.

Otherwise, I’m still doing my debt repayment (the never-ending car loan and my vision correction surgery) as planned. Can’t wait to be debt-free in November!

Savings

Here are the details of my June savings:

  • June 2: $650 out of $1,835.89 net
  • June 16: $475 out of $1,836.99 net
  • June 30: $300 out of $1,836.99 net
  • Total savings: $1,425 out of $5,510.96 in June or a 26% savings rate

Of the $1,425 I saved, I contributed $1,100 to my TFSA and bought $325 worth of cryptocurrency outside a registered account.

Granted, it certainly wasn’t my best month on the savings front, but that was to be expected. Fortunately, I’m still on track for my 2021 savings goal of $25,000. I’ve already reached 58% of my goal, so I’m still ahead of the game despite a slightly slower June.

Plus, I have good news for my future savings. I actually got (another) raise! Indeed, my former boss offered me a position I’d never thought I’d get in years within her team. Even though it’s at the same level as my current position, she offered me a 3% salary increase. I asked for 6%, which I got almost immediately. Clearly, I should have asked for more. 😉

Since I wasn’t expecting to change jobs anytime soon, let alone get a raise, it’s all very much welcome. This will bring my annual base salary to $83,596 once I start after my September vacation. In short, the end of the year looks promising for my savings rate!

Another side effect of a salary increase is an increase in my contributions to my DB pension. Since I plan on taking my pension’s commuted value once I resign, it’s one more step towards achieving my goals. Hooray!

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-06-01$497.50Rent
2021-06-02$354.40Travel
2021-06-02$106.92Groceries
2021-06-02$26.67Gas
2021-06-02$25.00SAQ
2021-06-03$458.75Renovation
2021-06-03$120.00American Express Annual Fee
2021-06-04$403.85Car Payment
2021-06-04$6.41Pharmacy
2021-06-04$3.40Starbucks
2021-06-05$37.74Car Insurance
2021-06-06$25.53Amazon
2021-06-10$8.25Netflix
2021-06-11$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-06-12$31.57Clothes
2021-06-17$102.50Groceries
2021-06-17$20.00Gas
2021-06-17$51.03Mondou
2021-06-18$403.85Car Payment
2021-06-19$9.48Groceries
2021-06-25$159.74Travel
2021-06-27$4.31Starbucks
2021-06-30$27.02Home Internet
Total:$2,913.42

In June, I spent $2,913.42, which is $34,961.04 annualized. If we take out my car loan payments, it comes down to $2,105.72, which is $25,268.64 annualized.

Here’s why my savings rate is down this month: high expenses! Of course, with the summer and the getting back to a more normal life, it was to be expected. Also, I helped my mother with some renovations at home. It’s all nice and good to save, but you also have to help sometimes. 🙂

Additionally, I paid part of my Airbnb for my upcoming trip to Hawaii with my sister, and I went on a little frugal trip to Gaspésie with my boyfriend during my vacation week! Having the same money mindset makes things so much easier! 🙂

For your information, I was able to cut my travel expenses considerably thanks to my credit card points. In fact, I was able to cut about $380 from our Airbnb booking with my Cobalt American Express card and about $100 from my Gaspésie trip with my CIBC Aventura Visa Infinite card.

Finally, I am happy to note that I only spent $16,477 in the first half of the year. This includes $5,250 in car payments and $2,990 for my vision correction surgery. So, if you leave out those expenses that will definitely not be recurrent once I reach FI, that comes down to $8,237 in expenses in six months.

Let’s see what the rest of the year holds for me!

Reading List

Summer or winter, any month is a good month for a little reading. Although I didn’t read much about finances, some of my reading was still very relevant for developing my mindset. So, here’s my June reading list:

Digital Minimalism was an eye-opener on my (and our collective) addiction to technological devices. For those who’ve seen the Netflix documentary called The Social Dilemma, it’s in the same vein. I have since been trying to reduce my exposure to my smartphone. Needless to say, it’s not simple.

For crypto fans, the book Bitcoin Billionaires was particularly interesting. There aren’t tons of books on the subject yet, by the way, so it was nice to read something on the subject. We get to learn more about the early days of bitcoin and the Winklevoss twins’ early involvement. A must-read!

Conclusion

So there you go. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say. With the first half of the year already behind us, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come. Sometimes it can feel like not much is happening. You just need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Zoom out!

With any luck, I should have a slightly less busy July. So, I really want to meet some of you who are interested. Talking finances and FIRE would be especially invigorating! I’ll contact directly those who already came forward. 🙂

What about you? Have you made any observations about the beginning of your year? And how is the second half looking? Please let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

How to Save on Groceries

Hello everyone!

After a reader asked me for my tips on how to save on groceries, I decided to make it the subject of an entire article. I think it’d be relevant for everyone to see the possibilities to optimize this budget item which, as we know, can monopolize a good chunk of our budget!

For my part, I manage to maintain a level of expenses that I consider acceptable. I have to say it wasn’t always optimal, and I’ve had to improve my method over time! It’s the same for everything. With practice and a little perseverance, we get better, and we find the right balance.

So, I’m going to start by giving you an overview of my grocery spending. You’ll be able to see the average I spend at the grocery store and how much of my disposable income it represents.

Then, I’ll share with you the tips I always use, as well as what I try to avoid doing. I hope you’ll find something that’ll help you save a couple of bucks!

My Food Expenses

Firstl, I wish I could give you a more comprehensive picture, but I only started tracking my expenses in August 2020. So I can’t go back any further to do an average. Still, it’ll give you a good idea!

Also, as of September, you have access to it in detail through my monthly reviews , and you’ll continue to have access to it for future months.

So, let’s see how much I spent at the grocery store every month:

That means my average monthly grocery bill is $211.21, or $2,534.52 annualized. This represents about 5% of my disposable income. Considering that food expenses are generally part of the three big budget items (along with housing and transportation), that’s a pretty good number!

My tips

So, it would seem I have a good method, since my food expenses only take up 5% of my disposable income. Of course, I make a fairly respectable salary, but that’s no excuse for eating caviar!

I have been following a ketogenic diet for several years now, but the following tips absolutely apply to anyone.

Make a Grocery List

First of all, the best way to really buy what you need in a structured way is to make a list. As soon as you run out of something, add it to the list for the next grocery run. That way, you never forget anything and you don’t have to go back.

Although there are many apps for this, I personally use Google Keep to make my list. The advantage, compared to a paper list, is that I am much less likely to forget it, since my smartphone follows me just about everywhere. Plus, you can share the list with someone else for review and editing. That way, my sister and I can both access it at any time and add to it as we go along.

Of course, making a list is nice, but you have to stick to it. That means not adding too many unplanned items at the store just because you’re hungry.

Buy in Bulk

It’s the same thing for just about anything else. Buying larger sizes means you benefit from an economy of scale! If you’re not sure whether the larger size is actually cheaper, most grocery stores will show the price per 100 g on their price tags. This makes it much easier to compare what gives the most bang for your buck!

Of course, the bulk champion is Costco. I personally do more than half of my grocery shopping at Costco, so I benefit from a pretty impressive economy of scale! Let me tell you, the subscription pays for itself pretty quickly.

Don’t Go to the Store Too Often

Let’s face it. People who go to the grocery store every day almost always end up buying more than they needed, under the influence of emotion or appetite. Moreover, if they go back so often, it is most likely because they buy sizes too small in the first place, and therefore, pay more per 100 g.

Personally, I go grocery shopping about every two weeks. This is actually another advantage of buying in bulk. It takes longer to get through everything! And when I run out of something, what do I do in the meantime? I do without. I eat something else and cook what I have left.

Buy on Sale

No, not everything is cheaper at Costco. It’s worth going elsewhere too! And before you go to other stores, take your good old flyers out. Even better, use a flyer application (and unsubscribe from the paper version)! There are several available, such as Flipp, Reebee, etc.

Then, you can buy only the best-priced food. Personally, I know that for nuts, cheeses and many vegetables, Costco is the best. However, when it comes to meat and dairy products, it’s worth looking elsewhere!

Buy House Brands

Don’t be married to name brands. Many savings can be made by simply choosing the house brand! The big name brands, even on sale, are often more expensive than the house brands. Again, compare the price per 100 g. The difference can be impressive.

Also, it is not uncommon for house brand products to be actually manufactured by a third party, such as another well-known brand. They just put a different label on it! Let’s take a well-known example like Costco’s house brand Kirkland. Who knew that Kirkland coffee really came from Starbucks? The more you know!

Meal Prep

If you thought living on your own keeps you from buying in bulk, let me contradict you.

Unless you lack storage space, there is nothing to stop you from buying large quantities of the same food, cooking it in large amounts and then freezing it in single servings for later.

Don’t want to eat the same thing all the time? Buy more versatile proteins (ground meat, chicken) that allow you to make different recipes.

Personally, I always have small, single-serving meals in the freezer that I prepped in advance. In the past, when I worked in an office, I always had a lunch in the freezer, ready to go. That way, I was never tempted to eat at the cafeteria. Now that I work from home, it’s handy when I don’t feel like cooking or when the fridge is getting empty.

Stock Up On Versatile Foods

Some foods can be prepared in a multitude of ways. These will be your best friends.

For me, it’s eggs. Not only are they versatile, they’re good for a long time and cost next to nothing. 30 eggs for $5? I love that! However, when I run out of eggs, I know I need to stock up.

For some, it could be beans of any kind, pasta, frozen or canned vegetables, whatever.

The important thing is to have back-ups like this when supplies are running low, and you’d rather wait a bit more before you go grocery shopping.

Practice Intermittent Fasting

Fasting is not so popular, because it is profitable for absolutely no company. Although I know it’s not for everyone, you should know it has many health benefits.

However, the best side effect is for your wallet.

I’ve read some frugal bloggers who calculate their food expenses at about $2/meal. In my opinion, that must be a lot of bread, pasta and canned beans.

Personally, I average at about $4/meal, but I eat very differently and much less often. The final tally ends up being very similar. Remember, keto does not include bread, pasta or beans.

And everything tastes just so much better after a long fast! 🙂

What to Avoid

Now, maybe you already know and apply most of these tips, but you still find your grocery bill too high. So maybe the problem lies elsewhere. Here is a short list of things I avoid to keep the grocery bill at a decent price.

Snacks

I don’t know about you, but when I was young, I remember being told not to snack, or it’d ruin my meal.

Nowadays, it’s completely the opposite. Everyone eats snacks, all the time. Of course, if we make people believe that it is necessary to snack all the time, Big Food gets even richer.

Personally, I don’t snack. I only eat at meal time and I feel great. I eat (very) hearty meals that keep me full until the next one. That’s saying a lot, because the next one is sometimes 24 hours away.

Letting Food Spoil

No matter how much you buy your food at a good price, it’s all for naught if you let it go to waste (because you’ve eaten out too often, instead of cooking).

To avoid food waste, I also use Google Keep to keep an inventory of my fridge and freezer. Some might say it’s a little intense, but I like to be organized in just about everything.

When I’m wondering what to cook, I don’t even have to go through my fridge because I have a list. If something is hiding in the back of the fridge, it won’t be forgotten because it’s also on my list.

When I’m about to cook, I can pinpoint what needs to be eaten first (fresh meats and vegetables, for example), and I can add it to my recipe.

Of course, you still have to know how to improvise meals with the leftovers. Fortunately, we have the best possible tool in the world when we lack inspiration: internet. And the more comfortable you are with cooking, the more you can improvise intuitively without a recipe.

Finally, if you really don’t think you’ll be able to eat something before it goes bad, freeze it (if possible)!

Processed Food

Making everything from scratch with ingredients purchased in bulk will save you way more money than buying ready-made or processed foods. Especially considering that processed foods are taxable, compared to non-processed foods. By avoiding them, you automatically save 15% (in Quebec, anyway)!

Also, to avoid processed foods, here’s an easy trick. Just don’t do the middle aisles. It’s the realm of processed food. Stick to the foods on the periphery. 🙂

Also stay away from ready-made food at the grocery store. Yes, it can save time, but it’s expensive per meal and often not very nutritious. You’re no better off if you’re still hungry an hour later!

The Benefits of Lowering Your Grocery Bill

Of course, if you manage to lower your grocery bill a little, this could impact directly your savings rate. This will inevitably bring you closer to financial independence. Hooray!

Also, remember the 4% rule which recommends having a nest egg equivalent to 25 times your annual expenses. After that, annual withdrawals of 4% will cover your expenses.

If you do the exercise by expense items, it gives you an idea of how much money you need to have to pay for a particular expense once your FI.

So, if you spend $12,000/year on groceries ($1,000/month) and multiply that by 25, that means you need $300,000 to pay for your groceries at a 4% withdrawal rate.

However, if you manage to cut it in half, or $6,000/year or $500/month, only $150,000 will be needed. That’s a lot less money!

Using my previously mentioned numbers of $2,534.52/year, that means I only need $63,363 to pay for my groceries. Considering my nest egg is currently around $150,000, it’s like this part is already taken care of for me.

So, reducing the grocery bill allows you to increase your savings and decrease the amount of money you need to reach financial independence. In my opinion, it’s a win-win. 🙂

Conclusion

I have to say, I enjoyed taking stock of my grocery spending. I’m happy to see that I’m staying pretty much within my desired numbers, and without feeling any sense of deprivation. Looking at the numbers, it doesn’t look like I eat meat, nuts, cheese, avocado and tons of greens on a regular basis. But I do! 🙂

Also, I’ve been tracking my spending for almost a year now, and I’m starting to see some trends. I should have started doing this a long time ago!

One thing is for sure, food will always be a big part of anyone’s budget, and all tips are welcome to help lower the costs! I hope mine will be useful to you! If you have any other good tips, don’t hesitate to leave it in the comment section. 🙂

See you next time!

May 2021 Review

Hello!

I hope you’ve all had a great month of May, despite the uncertainties of the stock markets. Personally, I’ve simply stayed the course. 😉

So, what happened in May? Well, despite the lack of motivation, things are going well at work. I had an excellent early midyear evaluation with my now-former boss. Yes, I’m talking about the manager who hired me last February on my current temporary position. Too bad, because I had never had such a decent and human manager before.

As a matter of fact, she asked me if I was concerned about a new manager handling my possible tenure. You know what? I hadn’t even thought about it.

Is that the power of F.U. Money (chaste ears, beware)? No matter what happens next, I know I am in a good enough position to put up only with what’s best for me.

Otherwise, I went on some delightful bike rides. Here’s a good example of life’s simple pleasures. 🙂

Plus, I got my first dose of the vaccine! My second dose is scheduled for September, but the latest news suggests that it’ll be much earlier than that. What great news!

You may have noticed that my articles are getting a little more scarce. What can I say. I don’t feel like staying in front of my computer when the weather is nice. Especially since I’m enjoying the nice weather with good company these days. Yes, you can really meet someone on Fire Dating. 😉

How should I refer to him on the blog, now? Mr. SLAP? I’m open to suggestions. 😂

Okay, let’s get down to business now.

Net Worth as of May 31, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,025
$42,243
$46,750
$36,519
$5,752
$13,427
$2,600
Total assets:$148,316
Liabilities
Car loan:
Line of credit:
Credit cards:
$4,963
$0
$2,890
Total liabilities:$7,853
Net Worth$140,463
Difference+$2,326

Yes, it has not been an easy month on the stock market, as well as for crypto. In fact, it’s especially not easy for new investors who are experiencing their first dips. For the regulars, we know what that means. It’s sales time!

Let’s remember Warren Buffett’s words, after all:

Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.

By the way, did you know that there are stock market and crypto indexes that monitor market sentiments? Fascinating what you can find on the internet. 😉

Anyway, despite all this, I continued my regular investments. And despite that, my assets barely moved! Thus, the +$2,326 change in my net worth is essentially due to my debt repayment.

Of note, I received $800 from my group insurance to pay off part of my vision correction surgery. I put in $500 myself, in addition to my two car payments. So while my assets have stagnated, my liabilities have decreased quite a bit. Yay!

Also, you may be wondering why I’m carrying a balance on my credit card? After all, it’s basic personal finance not to carry bad debt! Actually, I meant to transfer it all to my personal line of credit (5.45% interest with Tangerine). However, I found out that my BMO AIR MILES credit card has a 9-month promotional rate on balance transfers. The promotional rate is 1.99%, which is much lower than my line of credit. So that’s where I transferred it instead.

This way, I feel less of a need to pay it back quickly,  and I can keep investing. 😉

Savings

Here are the details of my May savings:

  • May 5: $825 out of $1,835.89 net
  • May 19: $975 out of $1,837.00 net
  • Total savings: $1,800 out of $3,672.89 in May or a 49% savings rate

Of the $1,800 I saved, I contributed $1,350 to my TFSA and bought $450 worth of cryptocurrency outside a registered account.

I’m quite happy I managed to save so much! As mentioned earlier, I still have my surgery to pay off, so I was anticipating that this would pull my savings rate down. However, I’ve been able to offset that a bit by selling a few things here and there, such as books and Blu-rays that I’ve been meaning to get rid of for a while.

In fact, I finally got rid of my old hybrid bike that I haven’t used since I bought my road bike in 2018. Considering I paid $120 for it, used, selling it for $200 in 2021 felt absolutely great! 😉

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-05-01$11.50Sport Olympe
2021-05-02$7.16Groceries
2021-05-03$497.50Rent
2021-05-05$37.74Car Insurance
2021-05-06$49.33Sport Clothes
2021-05-07$403.85Car Payment
2021-05-10$88.41Oil change
2021-05-10$8.25Netflix
2021-05-12$112.45Groceries
2021-05-12$33.64Gas
2021-05-13$3.40Starbucks
2021-05-14$9.45SAQ
2021-05-15$4.79Groceries
2021-05-16$3.40Starbucks
2021-05-17$7.74Pharmacy
2021-05-17$23.25Groceries
2021-05-17$5.60Amazon
2021-05-21$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-05-21$403.85Car Payment
2021-05-21$5.97Groceries
2021-05-23$3.40Starbucks
2021-05-26$37.92Gas
2021-05-26$36.30Groceries
2021-05-27$221.77United
2021-05-29$64.39Mondou
2021-05-29$28.75Home Internet
2021-05-30$3.40Starbucks
Total:$2,142.71

In May, I spent $2,142.71, which is $25,712.52 annualized.If we take out my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,335.01, which is $16,020.12 annualized.

Most of my expenses are the same as usual. I also bought some sports clothes at Decathlon. The prices there are really extraordinary. Needless to say, I will never go back to Sport Expert.

So it was pretty quiet on the spending front until I finally decided to use my United flight credit. So, yeah, my Hawaii trip is finally booked, come what may. My first dose of the vaccine finally convinced me to do it. 😉

Of course, prices having increased since then, I still had to pay $221. I will have other expenses to do in the next few months in preparation for this trip. So there is a good chance that the savings rate will continue to take a hit. 😉

Finally, still on the topic of expenses, a reader recently wrote to me for tips on how to buy groceries at a lower cost. Since this is usually one of the biggest expense items, it’s worth looking into. Since I’ve been tracking my expenses, I see that the average I pay for groceries per month is $206.

So, I’m not forgetting you, dear reader. Although I’ve touched on the subject here, it could definitely be the subject of a future article. Stay tuned!

Reading List

Curiously, I have done a little less reading this month. Maybe for lack of time or lack of interest? The nice weather and Mr. Slap make reading somewhat less frequent and appealing. 😉

Despite that, my May reading list looked like this:

Predictably Irrational was particularly interesting! It was actually a suggestion from one of my Facebook page subscriber. Thanks for the recommendation, it was right up my alley!

I think Think Like a Monk is worth a special mention. I have often joked that I live like a monk. I can confirm that many of the concepts detailed in the book resonated with me.

Finally, I reread I Will Teach You to Be Rich. I realize that many of my good financial habits today took shape from reading this book in 2017. Now, it’s a little less relevant to me, as most of the content is now perfectly implemented. However, it was a nice change to read about the wealth and abundance mindset, compared to frugality and the FIRE movement in general.

Of course, I’m perfectly happy with my frugal lifestyle, but it’s always interesting and rewarding to see things from a different perspective. One thing is certain. Ramit Sethi certainly wouldn’t tell me to cut back on my Starbucks coffees. 😉

Conclusion

So here we are, another month gone and it’s already June. How time flies!

This month, I have a week of vacation planned for the first time in almost a year. I didn’t see the point in taking a lot vacation in 2020, oddly enough. After that, my real vacation time (three weeks, two of them in Hawaii) will be in September. The week in June will only serve as an appetizer. 😉

Spending will most likely be more frequent in the months to come. However, no worries, I’m already ahead on my savings goal for 2021. 😉

If any of you are interested in a little meet up in a park or something in the Quebec City area, don’t hesitate to let me know. It’d be nice to talk in person with other FIRE and personal finance enthusiasts!

Hope to see you there. 🙂

My Investment Portfolio

I hesitated until now to make a post like this, for fear that it’d be uninteresting. Indeed, I’m a long-term investor, aiming for growth by investing in boring index funds. I want to have as little to do as possible. I buy and hold. Nothing exciting, right?

I don’t do any kind of stock analysis and I couldn’t care less about P/E ratios and such.

Honestly, all-in-one ETFs? Best invention in the world!

However, I sincerely believe that this should be the main investment method for the vast majority of people. The simplicity of it makes it so accessible. Considering that, I think it’s appropriate to explain it in detail for those who find investing a bit intimidating and would like to have an example of a very simple (boring, even) portfolio.

You should also know that I hate keeping cash. In fact, I don’t even have an emergency fund. It is therefore worth noting that I always keep only the bare minimum in cash, and this, in all my investment accounts.

Finally, I do all my personal investing through Questrade, one of the cheapest online brokers in Canada. If you are interested in opening an account, enter my QPass Key 665709686438830, and we’ll both get $25. 🙂

Disclaimer

I am not a financial advisor, tax specialist or retirement planner.  Nor am I legally certified to give financial advice. This article is not financial advice.

I only want to show you my investment portfolio, as an example and for the sake of transparency. 🙂

LIRA

First, you may recall that I took the commuted value from my previous employer’s DB pension in 2018. The funds were deposited up to the maximum transfer value ($29,826) into a locked-in retirement account (LIRA) in October 2018.

So as of today, I only hold XEQT, which is a 100% stock ETF, in that account. The Management Expense Ratio (MER) is only 0.20%, which is fine with me for such a passive approach. I used to have different ETFs that I had to rebalance myself. Now I prefer to have to do (or be tempted to do) as little trading as possible. With that in mind, an ETF like this is a perfect fit for me.

So, I currently hold 1,848 units bought at an average price of $21.66.

Let me remind you that you cannot contribute any money to a LIRA, other than by transferring a previous pension. Thus, my LIRA’s growth has only been due to compound returns and the quarterly dividend payments, which I reinvest immediately.

As of today, considering my 1,848 units and my few dollars in cash, I have a balance of $46,089.66.

RRSP

As for my Questrade RRSP, I have exactly the same approach as in my LIRA. I hold 1,443 units of XEQT, purchased at an average price of $21.44.

As of last Friday’s market close, considering my 1,443 units and my few dollars in cash, I had a balance of $36,007.03.

I also have a FTQ RRSP, a Québec worker’s fund, to which I contributed when working for my previous employer. I have 117.1339 units valued (as of December 31, 2020, the value being updated every six months) at $49.11. Thus, I have a balance of $5,752.45.

Finally, I have one last RRSP with Fondaction, another similar worker’s fund. I have 954.2905 units valued (also as of December 31, 2020) at $14.07. So, I have a balance of $13,426.86.

Adding all of that give me a total of $55,681 in RRSPs.

TFSA

Since the TFSA is a very different investment vehicle than the RRSP and LIRA, I decided to take a slightly different approach. Since this account will provide me with tax-free income in retirement and I plan to delay withdrawing from it until as late as possible, I can afford more risk and volatility in exchange for a better return.

In addition, I have plenty of Canadian exposure in my RRSPs (notably with FTQ and Fondaction who are focused only in Québec). Thus, I decided to opt for an almost exclusively international ETF with ZGQ. This ETF has a more active approach, which explains the higher MER of 0.50%.

Thus, I hold 863 units, purchased at an average price of $44.99. Considering last Friday’s value, that’s a total balance of $39,689.37.

Also, I decided to go for some more volatility and speculation with the newest cryptocurrency ETFs.

That means I hold 55 units of ETHH.B bought on average at $10.15. Considering last Friday’s value, that’s a total balance of $976.80.

Finally, I hold 160 units of BTCC.B bought on average at $10.10. Considering last Friday’s value, that’s a total balance of $1,454.40.

So, considering my 3 different ETFs, and the couple of dollars in cash, my TFSA’s total balance is of $42,126.12.

Analysis

As you may know, I’m a nerd, and I like to play around with Excel (Google Spreadsheet, actually). It allows me, among other things, to make different charts to help give me pretty visuals of my portfolios and my progress. Let me show you some of them.

Country Breakdown

The big difference between my two main ETFs (XEQT and ZGQ) is the percentage of Canadian stocks. While XEQT holds about 24% of Canadian stocks, ZGQ holds less than 1%! Also, let’s not forget that my FTQ and Fondaction RRSPs are 100% invested in Canada (Québec, specifically).

So, considering all this, I wondered what my country allocation looked like for my entire portfolio.

Thanks to this tool provided by Vanguard, I was able to compare in detail the two ETF’s country allocations and input the data in my glorious spreadsheet.

Here is the result:

I hold 26.9% in Canada! So ZGQ has indeed allowed me to reduce my home country bias a bit. Otherwise, I would be somewhere around 34%, which sounds way too heavy to me. The 46.2% in the U.S. is actually not very far from XEQT’s 47%. Finally, 26.9% comes from the rest of the world, with Japan, the UK, and Switzerland among the largest. I honestly didn’t know that, and I find that very interesting.

Of course, by continuing to invest in ZGQ only in my TFSA, I’ll keep decreasing my exposure to the Canadian market and increasing my exposure to the global market. That’s the goal!

In the end, there’s a proof you can be extremely diversified worldwide with very few ETFs.

Portfolio Growth

I pulled up another interesting chart that shows my different account’s growth since I started investing. Here it is:

Despite the fact that I haven’t invested anything in my RRSP since about April 2020 or in my LIRA since the transfer in October 2018, you can clearly see the growth due to only return and dividends.

Also, I especially like to see the growth in my TFSA since April 2020, when I started focusing most of my savings there. It’ll continue to gain momentum over the next few years as I get closer to maxing it out. In fact, I have just under $40,000 left to contribute to it as of today.

Taxable vs Non-Taxable Accounts

Finally, this brings me to the proportion of each account within my portfolio. As of today, it looks like this:

So, that means 71% of my portfolio is taxable (RRSPs and LIRAs), while only 29% is non-taxable (TFSAs). Of course, since I am focusing almost all my savings in my TFSA now, the non-taxable portion (and therefore future non-taxable income) will continue to increase.

Remember, there is no downside to having a big fat TFSA. The same cannot be said for an RRSP. 🙂

Asset Allocation

Yes, this makes for a pretty aggressive portfolio. What can I say? I do have a very long investment horizon and an excellent risk tolerance. 😉

So I hold close to 100% stocks in my traditional investment portfolio. The few percentages that are not invested in stocks are invested in cryptocurrency ETFs, which are definitely considered even riskier than stocks.

While I will most likely revisit my asset allocation as I get closer to retirement, I have no interest in sacrificing my returns with bonds, in the meantime.

In fact, I’m still one of the lucky ones to have a DB pension plan. This type of pension plan is so generous that it’s just like having a certain amount of bonds.

In fact, I checked and my pension’s 2020 annual report indicated that 45% of the money is invested in bonds. That means I have some exposure myself. I may not have direct access to that money right now, but I plan to take the commuted value when I leave the rat race.

As Simple as That!

There, I hope that was interesting for some of you, dear readers. This is a particularly simple approach to investing. However, it’s been proven to work. After all, the investors who get the best returns are usually… dead. There are clear benefits to being inactive. 🙂

While everything about my stock portfolio is pretty boring, I think I’m making up for it with my cryptocurrency portfolio. My next article will be in the same vein. This time, I’ll offer more details about my famous crypto portfolio. This might be a bit more interesting. 😉

And no, I don’t hold Dogecoin.

Hope to see you soon!

April 2021 Review

Hello!

Can you believe that we’ve already made it a third of the way through the year? How time flies!

I hope you had as nice a month as I had. That nice weather, here and there, was delightful. Of course, Mother Nature had her ups and downs, but the worst is behind us now. Can’t expect snow in May, right?

I’m glad to notice, and report that things are getting better and better at work! I did most of the training, and now I’m actually working on real files. It feels good to be useful. The days are a bit intense, but that just helps add fuel to my FIRE goal. 😉

Of course, I’m looking forward to being able to do a little more activities, as the weather gets even nicer and the days get longer. I have my fingers crossed for a little less Covid restrictions. At least, I’ll be getting my road bike out soon. What a joy that’ll be to be riding again outside! 🙂

Also, I’ll soon be able to do one of my favourite activities in the sun. You probably guessed it, I’m talking about reading, of course. 🙂 As you know, I love life’s simple pleasures. 😉

Finally, I’ll also be able to enjoy all these simple pleasures without glasses! As planned, I had my vision correction surgery on April 30th. The recovery is going wonderfully well. My wallet, a little less, but it’s okay. I see it as a long-term investment. 😉

Anyway, enough with the chit-chat. Let’s get down to business!

Net Worth as of April 30, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,292
$41,457
$46,495
$36,329
$5,752
$13,427
$3,290
Total assets:$148,042
Liabilities
Car loan:
Line of credit:
Credit cards:
$5,769
$0
$4,136
Total liabilities:$9,905
Net Worth$138,137
Difference+$2,619

Thanks to the stock markets recovering a bit this month, after two rather slow months, my net worth has increased nicely. So, the large sums injected in March have already been able to get to work. I’m very satisfied with this result!

Despite the cost of my surgery ($3,790), I am still in the black this month. So the returns were really quite positive. 🙂

On the cryptocurrency side, it’s still very volatile, of course. How many times has Bitcoin been declared “dead” this month? It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! Personally, I’m handling it perfectly well. That just proved to me that I’m in it for the long run. I haven’t had a sudden urge to “panic sell” yet. 😉

Despite the ups and downs, or shall I say, the roller coaster ride of cryptocurrency, I remain largely in profit on my investment.

In fact, I don’t just hold Bitcoin. Although I bought Bitcoin as low as $39,000 initially, I am not in that much profit. It’s actually altcoins that are giving me the best bang for my buck right now. For example, I quadrupled my initial investment in VeChain (VET). Ethereum’s (ETH) recent new all-time highs have also had a noticeable impact on my portfolio, after a couple of slow months. For cryptocurrency, of course. 😉

Savings

Here are the details of my April savings:

  • April 7: $875 out of $1,787.59 net
  • April 21: $1,100 out of $1,838.07 net
  • Total savings: $1,975 out of $3,625.66 in April or a 54% savings rate

Of the $1,975 I saved, I contributed $1,500 to my TFSA and bought $475 worth of cryptocurrency outside a registered account.

I have to admit that I am really proud of my savings rate this month. 🙂 I didn’t have any surprise income like I did in March, but I still managed to save a little more than I did in January and February. The only slight difference in income was due to my annual raise starting on the April 22nd pay.

For your information, my annual base salary (without bonus) is now $79,281. For more details on the progression of my annual salary since I entered the job market, take a look here. 🙂

There’s a proof that you don’t need to earn millions to be able to save!

Also, my 2021 savings are already approaching half of my goal, after only a third of the year has passed! This gives me a bit of leeway to be able to pay off my surgery on my credit card, which I will eventually transfer to my personal line of credit.

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-04-01$497.50Rent
2021-04-02$3.40Starbucks
2021-04-02$79.00Ticket
2021-04-05$37.74Car Insurance
2021-04-09$403.85Car Payment
2021-04-11$3.40Starbucks
2021-04-14$14.24Hostinger
2021-04-15$97.15Groceries
2021-04-15$29.08Gas
2021-04-17$3.40Starbucks
2021-04-17$8.78SAQ
2021-04-18$19.53Mondou
2021-04-19$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-04-23$403.85Car Payment
2021-04-23$4.99Groceries
2021-04-24$3.40Starbucks
2021-04-27$3.99Groceries
2021-04-29$101.36Groceries
2021-04-29$34.15Gas
2021-04-29$27.02Home Internet
2021-04-30$3,790.00Lasik MD
2021-04-30$33.61Pharmacy
Total:$5,628.94

In April, I spent $5,628.94, which is $67,547.28 annualized. Of course, I won’t be getting eye surgery every month. So, when taking out all surgery-related costs, it comes down to $1,805.33, which is $21,663.96 annualized. If we take out my car loan payments, it comes down to $997.63, which is $11,971.56 annualized.

So, if not for the surgery, I had very little spending in April, which explains the previously mentioned savings rate. 🙂

Once again, I’m still reaping the benefits of the expenses I had done in advance in February to unlock credit card bonuses. Otherwise, this month’s expenses were all pretty routine, except for my damn speeding ticket. 😉

Reading List

April was another beautiful month spent reading. I spent many mornings reading, with my cat on my lap and a delicious coffee in my hand. 🙂

So, my April reading list goes like this:

For all Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder fans, I strongly recommend Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. What a delightful read!

Otherwise, I’m glad I waited until later in my FIRE journey to read Early Retirement Extreme. There’s not much talk about investing per se in this book. The focus is much more on how to minimize expenses, mostly by doing everything yourself (DIY) and developing your own abilities. It’s a great resource for people who are frugal or are aiming for frugality. 😉

Also, someone recommended I read the Early Retirement Extreme 21 Day Makeover on the author’s blog, which I am told has a more practical approach. I will try to read it very soon! 🙂

As for The Latte Factor, that is a book I’ll keep in my back pocket for anyone who is starting to take an interest in taking control of their finances. I see it in the same light as Do You Really Need It? or Wealthing Like Rabbits.  Those have always been my go-to references for beginners, but The Latte Factor just joined them. It is a very short, accessible book in narrative form. I think it has a lot of potential to give a nice reality check to beginners. 😉

Conclusion

Anyone who knows me in real life will have noticed that I sing basically all the time. I constantly have a song in my head that is playing on a loop. Sheppard’s The Best Is Yet To Come is often stuck there these days.

It must be because I couldn’t agree more. The best is yet to come, folks. May will be a great month! 🙂

I’m thinking of doing an article soon to give some more details on my portfolios, both conventional investments and crypto. Of course, on the conventional side, you already have a good idea from reading this blog so far. However, I’ll try to go into even more detail and my reasoning behind my investments.

On the cryptocurrency side, as mentioned above, I hold more than just Bitcoin. As of today, I actually hold nine different cryptocurrencies. So I could give you a bit of details about each one and how I go about buying them.

Of course, none of these articles would be financial advice. 😉 It’s always for the sake of transparency. And, let’s face it, we like numbers and details.

Don’t hesitate to let me know if you’re interested, or what you’d like to know exactly!

Hope to see you soon! 🙂

How to Enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures

Many people seem to wonder how I manage to spend so little. How come I don’t feel the need to “treat myself just a little?” After all, one cannot keep making sacrifices like that and not feel deprived. Right?

Perhaps you have already been on the receiving end of such a speech?

Personally, I have two explanations.

First, I am an extremely rational person. I mean, Spock is basically my spiritual brother.

So, it makes perfect sense to me to make “sacrifices” now, knowing that it’ll all pay off exponentially in the future. With that in mind, I have no interest in changing my strategy.

For example, why would I spend $1,000, or 38 hours of after-tax work (at my hourly rate), on some gadget, when I can buy a used one at a fraction of the price, then invest the balance? That amount, after several years of compounding, will pay for much more than a gadget planned to become obsolete.

Otherwise, besides my Vulcan brain, what keeps me happy in my frugal ways is practising gratitude on a daily basis.

In other words, I’m grateful for the simple things in life. You know, the little joys, beyond material possessions. As simple as that. I’d much rather enjoy what I do have, rather than desire what I don’t have. By doing so, there is simply no sense of deprivation.

Being Happy Everyday

Sure, my future financial independence will be very nice. But if I wait until then to be happy, the next five years will feel miserable.

So in the meantime, I enjoy the little things in life.

Every morning, I look forward to get out of bed for my delicious first sip of coffee.

I feel satisfaction every time I read a fascinating book that teaches me something or transport me to an imaginary world. I also enjoy having my cat sleeping on my lap while I read and sip my coffee.

I enjoy a nice car ride with music, playing air drums on my steering wheel while listening to In the Air Tonight or singing at the top of my lungs. If a moment of distraction has kept me from fully enjoying the best part of a song, I’ll just rewind it!

I savour every bite of a delicious meal that I took the time to prepare.

I revel in the fresh air in nature, listen intently to the sound of the wind in the leaves of a tree and delight in the feel of the sun on my skin. All of this is amplified during a delightful bike ride!

I get excited during an intense conversation about a topic I’m passionate about with a friend, loved one or loyal reader.

You’ll notice that these are all very mundane, everyday things. But if we don’t take the time to appreciate them, when will we ever be truly happy?

Objects Don’t Make You Happy

Sure, some of the things mentioned above require certain things or objects. However, it’s important to remember that what makes people happy are experiences.

Would I really be happier if I was reading in a mansion? Riding on a $10,000 bike? Doing a road trip in a Jaguar? Watching Star Trek on a 98″ 8K Smart TV? Eating my favourite meal at a 5-star restaurant?

Even if an object could increase my happiness, it’s rarely proportional to the price paid. Will my ride on a $10,000 bike really be ten times more enjoyable than on a $1,000 bike? A hundred times more enjoyable than on a $100 used bike ?

I doubt it.

Think about what really makes you happy in what you do. While everything has its price, it’s rarely justified to pay a fortune.

In fact, when people spend an unreasonable amount of money on an object, it’s rarely in the pursuit of happiness. It’s more likely to be a bad case of keeping up with the Joneses.

Expressing Joy Makes You Happy

I know some people with whom it’s impossible to tell whether they’re happy or not. It feels like they’re simply unable to express it. Even if, after the fact, they’ll say they were happy, no one could have guessed. I understand that no one expresses themselves the same way, but I find it confusing.

Personally, I have learned that it is not enough to be happy. You also have to express your joy. I actually have a friend who shares with me the good things that happen to him and how happy he is on a regular basis. I quickly realized how beneficial it was for him to say it and for me to hear it. So I started doing it too. It may sound silly, but now I never go through a meal without saying how delicious it is and how I’m enjoying it. When I finish a great book, I feel the need to share what a good read it was.

So, go to town. Express your joy and see how it suddenly becomes more tangible. Especially since joy can be so contagious. It’s much better to spread that than a virus. 😉

Another great way to express joy and gratitude, perhaps a little less publicly, is to write a gratitude journal. I have to admit that I felt a little silly the first few times I did it, but I decided to do the exercise anyway. Every night, I’d reflect on my day and look for whatever positive thing happened and what I was grateful for.

Let me tell you that in the midst of a pandemic, it definitely helped me identify the good things in my life and appreciate them. Because yes, even during tough times, there are good things. 🙂

Be Aware of Your Privilege

You know what else you should take a moment to appreciate?

How damn lucky you are.

Yes, yes, I’m well aware of the current pandemic.

But you know what? You’re not alone. We’re all in this together, to different degrees.

If you spend your time thinking about how much worse your life is compared to others, try doing the exercise in reverse. How is your life better than someone else’s? Be grateful for that, rather than just focusing on the negative. You will slowly see your outlook on life change.

The same principle applies to your financial situation. You may well criticize the famous 1%, or simply feel inadequate in comparison. However, when you look at the global scale, there’s a good chance you’re closer to the 1% than you thought. Take a look here, to see just how rich you are.

Honestly, we’re lucky to live in Canada.

Be aware of your status, your privileges and be grateful.

There is always someone worse off than you. It just depends on who you are comparing yourself to.

It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

If we spend our time thinking something is missing in order to be happy, then we’ll never be happy.

When we take the time to appreciate what we already have, we’re already halfway there. Ultimately, happiness is the goal, isn’t it? So let’s stop putting it off. It’s all a matter of mindset.

Of course, like everyone else, there are some things I wish I could do right now, during this pandemic. But I assure you… it’s not about material possessions. What I want is to be able to spend time with friends and family without worry. I want to be able to invite friends over to my house, make them a delicious meal, have a drink and play board games.

But all things come to those who wait, apparently. 🙂

In the meantime, I would like to hear about your daily simple pleasures. Feel free to tell me about it in the comment section!

My Low-Cost Travel Plan

Are you getting as restless as I am about travelling?

My last trip was in October 2019 for a short stay in Los Angeles. I was supposed to travel again in April 2020, but you can guess how that went down. So it’s been a year now that I’ve been putting off this trip reluctantly.

Well, that gave me plenty of time to think about it! Since then, I’ve been working out how I plan to travel on a budget. I’ll be able to do this through the use of specific credit cards, the use of points and miles and a generally frugal lifestyle.

I know I’ve said it before, but I have to give a shout out to the excellent travel hacking resource that is Milesopedia. For anyone who wants to travel on a budget, and is interested in signing up for credit cards to earn bonus points and miles, you’ll find answers to your questions there. They also have a Facebook group where you can ask questions or simply discuss!

However, beware. There is a lot of information. Seriously, it’s overwhelming, but absolutely worth spending some time there. Personally, I’m more than happy to have spent an hour or two exploring that website.

On another note, please be advised that this present article contains some affiliate links. If you click on some of my credit card referral links, I’ll get a few extra points. That’d be much appreciated! 🙂

My Points and Miles

So, I’ll start by giving you my points and miles balance for my main travel programs. I signed up for my first credit card to earn bonus points back in March 2020. That’ll  give you a rough idea of how many points and miles one can earn in about a year.

I’ll break down below what I can get with these points. 🙂

I could have done even better, but I started slowly with one card at a time. I was slowly getting acquainted with the concept. Now, I subscribe to two or three cards  at a time, every three months. Let’s just say it adds up a lot faster!

Let me reassure you. It hasn’t been at the expense of my credit score. It’s doing just fine. 🙂

My Next Trip

So, what will my next trip be? I’ll actually go exactly where I was supposed to go in April 2020. I was supposed to go to Hawaii for two weeks with my sister. Initially, we would have spent a week on Big Island, then a week in Maui.

However, I am more inclined to slow-travel now, especially once I’ll be FI. In that spirit, I want to give it a try for that my next trip. So, to avoid feeling rushed, my next trip will be two weeks on the same island: Big Island.

There will be another time to visit Maui just as slowly. 🙂

I’ve actually been to Hawaii before with two friends. We had been on Big Island, definitely my favourite, and on Oahu. Everything felt kind of rushed, and I told myself that I wanted to go back one day to see more.

From memory, that trip cost me around $4,000. I wasn’t necessarily that frugal back then, and I didn’t have any points or miles to cut down expenses. Let’s see if I can do better this time. 🙂

So, I’m going to go over the major travel expense categories and see how I can cut costs.

Flight

For very hypothetical dates (that I don’t even dare say out loud, for fear of jinxing it), a round trip flight from Quebec City to Kailua-Kona currently costs around $850, according to Google Flights. Instead, I could use my Aeroplan points to pay for the flight. It would cost me 35,000 Aeroplan points. I would only have to pay the taxes, about $200.

I did the simulation with AIR MILES for the same hypothetical dates. It would cost me either 8,500 miles during the low season or 11,000 miles during the high season. In either case, I don’t have the exact required number of miles currently. Honestly, I doubt that it’d be the best value for AIR MILES, anyway.

In reality, I’ll most likely use my United credit granted to me after cancelling my April 2020 plans. However, you get the idea.

Accommodation

Personally, I love booking on Airbnb. It’s clearly cheaper than hotels, plus it offers a lot more amenities.

Not all travel programs include Airbnb bookings. One that does is American Express Membership Rewards. I’m currently earning them with my Cobalt American Express.

It’s important to note these points convert at a rate of $10 per 1,000 points. I currently have 27,000 points, and the Cobalt current promotion allows me to get up to 45,000 points in bonuses. That means $450 applicable on an Airbnb reservation! That’s a lot of (free) money.

Of the Airbnb places I’ve looked at for Big Island, the average cost seems to be about $2,000. With my current point balance, I’d be able to reduce the bill by $270. That would leave $1,730 left to pay, which I would split with my sister. That means $865 each for a two-week stay in Hawaii!

Alternatives

Of course, there are other options than Airbnb. If I were to prefer hotels, I could transfer my American Express points to the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. This way, I could reduce my Marriott hotel bill with my points. Of course, the Aeroplan and AIR MILES programs also allow using points and miles for hotel bookings.

It’s just not a frugal enough option for me, but it sure can lower the bill for those who prefer that option!

There is also house-sitting, which I had already mentioned in a previous article. It’s something I might consider, but I doubt there are many opportunities in Hawaii. Plus, if there are, I’m sure they get picked up pretty fast! Still, I’ll definitely look into it. I won’t admit defeat until I’ve tried! Even if it’s only a few days of house-sitting, it’d still help reduce the bill. 🙂

Food

As a rule, I don’t eat out very often. In fact, I prefer to know exactly what’s in my plate, and I also love to cook! So, eating a restaurant dish I could have made myself for a fraction of the cost feels more insulting than anything else. 😉

Of course, I understand that this is one of the small pleasures of travelling. However, like everything else, it’s good in moderation. The advantage of booking through Airbnb is getting options like a functional kitchen. Then, you can buy some groceries so you can prepare a few meals at a lower cost. You can buy local produces as much as possible in farmers’ markets and cook them yourself!

During my previous trip to Hawaii, we tried to limit ourselves to one restaurant meal per day. Other meals, we made them ourselves at our rental place. By doing this, we saved a lot of money. We also reduced restaurant bills by eating at lunch time, rather than at dinner time. More often than not, lunchtime menus are more affordable.

Otherwise, my ultimate hack to reduce food costs on vacation, or anywhere, is intermittent fasting. I already practise it on a daily basis, and have done so for several years. When I travel, it’s basically a superpower.

In fact, I usually eat between one and two meals a day, no snacks. If I prepare half my meals at my Airbnb, it’s definitely cheaper than eating three meals a day in a restaurant, plus snacks.

Transportation

Big Island, you guessed it, is not small. It’s actually impossible to explore without a car. It’s also pretty rural, so public transportation is not ideal.

According to Milesopedia, car rental is actually one of the best uses of AIR MILES.

For some reason, the AIR MILES car rental feature is down right now. However, if I look on Kayak, Expedia and Costco Travel, a 2-week car rental on Big Island runs around $1,400.

Since Milesopedia estimates the mile value at 20.24 cents/mile for car rentals, that’d add up to about 7,000 miles. That would leave only taxes and fees for me to pay. Clearly, this is a much better use of those miles, compared to the flight mentioned above.

For this particular expense, I actually don’t plan to use all of my precious miles. I want to keep them for a future trip to Disney (another great use of those miles). But again, you get the idea.

The Aeroplan program also covers rental cars. For the same two weeks, it’d cost me about 50,000 points. That could be an alternative.

Of course, if I were travelling to a place where public transit was a good option, that’d be my first pick. 🙂

Activities

I don’t necessarily have points-related tips for this category. It’s more a matter of choices.

On Big Island, there are many free activities to do, including hiking and soaking up the sun on a beach. Personally, my favourite routine during my first trip was a nice balance between the two. This time, though, I’d love to rent a bike and explore the island differently. 🙂

There are also different museums and national parks that don’t cost much. For example, the entrance to the Volcanoes National Park was, from memory, $25 per car, not per person.

In fact, the big spending comes with typical tourist activities, like participating in a luau. However, if I decide to such things, I’ll plan ahead and make sure to look for discount coupons, deals on Tuango or promotions of any kind. Basically, I’ll avoid paying full price as much as possible.

Insurance

For this part, I’m lucky enough to have a great group insurance policy that includes travel insurance. For all those who have group insurance, start by looking at your coverage before getting additional travel insurance!

Next, you should know that many credit cards offer travel insurance as well. For example, my American Express Aeroplan card offers Lost/Stolen Baggage Insurance and Travel Accident Insurance up to $500,000.

In addition, my American Express AIR MILES Platinum card offers Auto Rental Insurance, Travel Accident Insurance up to $100,000, Purchase Protection, and more.

I won’t list all the coverage offered by my different, but you get the idea. With all of these coverage combined, I certainly won’t be subscribing to an additional one. Just go through all the coverage and see if everything is there. It’s really up to your personal needs. I know some people who travel without even being insured, so all risk tolerances are out there.

Mobile Plan

For some, this category is not even up for debate. They’ll simply use Wi-Fi when it’s available. Otherwise, they’ll do without. These days, apps like Messenger and Whatsapp allow us to write messages and make calls, as long as we’re connected to a Wi-Fi, with no additional fee.

However, if you insist on having data at all times and want to use your own phone number, then you have to pay extra through your mobile plan provider.

During my first trip, I remember my provider charging $7 a day for me to use my usual monthly plan over there. For the 15 days, it ended up costing me $105.

Fortunately, I found that my current provider, Fizz, offers much better options. You only need to buy add-ons on top of your regular monthly plan. This way, you can mix and match minutes, texts and data as you wish. The whole package adds up to $38 for the whole month. This includes 2 GB of data, 60 minutes of calls and 200 texts. The price difference is pretty shocking!

Parking, Luggage, etc.

Considering that I’ll be gone for two weeks, it’s quite possible that I’ll need to check a bag. A checked bag often costs about $30 per flight. Fortunately, my American Express Aeroplan card includes a free first checked baggage for me and up to 8 travel companions, when flying with Air Canada. Convenient, isn’t it?

Otherwise, considering that I’m more likely to fly with United by using my travel credit, and not Air Canada, I won’t be able to take advantage of that. Another option would be signing up for the NBC World Elite Mastercard and get up to $250 in travel credit per calendar year, applicable on parking, baggage and seat selection fees.

Let’s just say that solves a few problems. 🙂

I Can’t Wait!

So there you have it, that’s how I see my next trip, which I hope will happen sooner rather than later. With these tips and travel hacking, I should be able to spend less than $4,000 this time around. 😉

All that’s left is to be patient until it’s safe to travel again. Yes, it is what it is.

I’ve gone over the major travel expense categories, but if you have any tips on how to save money that I haven’t covered, feel free to bring it up in the comment section! That way we can all benefit from it! You know I’m always happy to save money. 😉

Finally, I’d be curious to hear about your next travel plans! But mostly, I’d love to know if you have any travel points waiting to be spent. I sure hope you do!

March 2021 Review

Hello!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a pretty busy month.

Among other things, the new job is keeping me very busy. Compared to my previous job, it’s the complete opposite. I need to justify that raise increase, huh? After every workday, my brain is just mush, and I still feel like I need to learn a million things. Thankfully, I see a progression. Until then, fake it ’til you make it, they say.

I also participated in the Quebec podcast 20 ans, pas l’temps?, as my Facebook page subscribers may have noticed. I actually participated in three different parts. Although I was apprehensive, as any introvert would have been, I absolutely loved the experience! 🙂

On top of all that, spring has arrived and with it, sunshine and warmth! I’m not mad about it. I feel like I’m slowly coming out of hibernation.

In short, I’ve had a little less time and energy to write, but I’m not giving up on this blog. The frequency of publication may slow down a bit, but don’t worry. My motivation towards my FIRE goal is still very much alive! 🙂

Now, let’s see if the numbers are also motivating.

Net Worth as of March 31, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,109
$38,978
$45,376
$35,456
$5,752
$13,427
$2,053
Total assets:$142,151
Liabilities
Car loan:
Line of credit:
Credit cards:
$6,577
$0
$56
Total liabilities:$6,578
Net Worth$135,518
Difference+$9,432

We can see a very nice progression this month! This increase is mostly due to an exceptional savings rate, which will be detailed below. Also, the car loan continues its slow descent, which increases my net worth at the same rate.

My crypto portfolio is growing rapidly, as much due to the rapid increase in value of the various cryptos I hold, as well as due to the $30 bonuses I received thanks to my Shakepay referral link. Thanks again to everyone who used it. 🙂

You may have noticed my crypto portfolio value has already surpassed 1% of my overall portfolio. While I’ve invested $1,400, the value is already quite a bit higher. In fact, I must admit that I am already very tempted to increase my “psychological limit” of 1%. The next big correction might convince me to put in more. Stay tuned. 😉

However, as far as the stock markets are concerned, it was an up and down kind of month. I’m glad I was able to put so much money into the market this month, while it was kind of at a standstill. The next big leg up will be all the more appreciated. 🙂

Savings

Here are the details of my March savings:

  • March 10: $975.00 out of $1,789.71
  • March 24: $4,103.45 out of $5,077.03 net
  • March 26: $331.83 out of $331.83
  • March 29: $964.72 out of $964.72
  • Total savings: $6,375.00 out of $8,163.29 in March or a 78% savings rate

Of the $6,375 I saved, I contributed $5,700 to my TFSA and bought $675 worth of cryptocurrency outside a registered account.

As I mentioned earlier, this was truly an exceptional month in terms of savings, thanks to so much money coming in! Indeed, in addition to my two regular paychecks, I received my annual bonus and both tax refunds.

In addition, I’m happy to see that I’m in a good position to reach my savings goal of $25,000 in 2021. I’ve already saved and invested $9,700 this year, or 39% of my goal, in just 3 months. That leaves me with $15,300 to save to reach my goal at the end of the year. That means I’ll need to save an average of $765 per pay until the end of the year to reach it.

Considering my annual raise next month (3.5%), the maxing out of QPP before the end of the year and my car loan paid in full in November, I should be able to do it. 🙂

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-03-01$497.50Rent
2021-03-02$26.43UFile
2021-03-04$11.60Pharmacy
2021-03-05$48.04Car Insurance
2021-03-07$3.40Starbucks
2021-03-07$3.76Amazon
2021-03-09$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-03-10$112.42Groceries
2021-03-10$23.07Gas
2021-03-10$18.53Mondou
2021-03-12$403.85Car Payment
2021-03-13$3.40Starbucks
2021-03-17$64.45Indiegogo
2021-03-21$3.40Starbucks
2021-03-25$6.89Pharmacy
2021-03-25$23.22Gas
2021-03-26$403.85Car Payment
2021-03-27$102.47Groceries
2021-03-29$27.02Home internet
2021-03-29$64,38Mondou
Total:$1,877.18

In March, I spent $1,877.18, which is $22,526.16 annualized. If we take out my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,069.48, which is $12,833.76 annualized.

I had very few expenses this month, and I’m very happy about it! This has actually been one of my best months since I started tracking my expenses! One of the reasons for this is that I did some expenses in advance in February in order to unlock bonus points on my credit cards.

Also, I’ve noticed another benefit to very low spending. It’s much less time-consuming for me to track and prepare the tables for this blog. 😉

Other than the usual stuff, the one out of the ordinary expense was on Indiegogo. I helped fund the upcoming Star Trek Voyager documentary, while also getting a nice T-shirt of my favourite Captain. 😉

Next month, I already know about an out of the ordinary expense. I had the nice surprise of a speeding ticket in the mail. Long live those photo radars.

Reading List

Despite a busy month, I’m still reading as much as I can! It’s really important to me, both for learning and entertainment purposes. 🙂

I would like to thank my Facebook subscribers who share their book suggestions with me every weekend. You really give me great book ideas!

So, my March reading list goes like this:

Beat the Bank is truly a must-read. Contrary to my expectations, it was not just theoretical and educational about the questionable practices of the big banks. There are also many concrete examples, such as portfolio models that you can build yourself, etc. Really an excellent Canadian resource!

I also really enjoyed 5 years to freedom. Although a bit of a typical FIRE book, the simple fact that it is a Canadian book is a huge bonus! Also, unlike books like Quit Like a Milionnaire and La retraite à 40 ans, it really shows how it’s possible to reach financial independence in a frugal way, even with children. Without hesitation, I added it to my recommendation page in the Canadian books section.

Otherwise, I want to make a special mention of The Autobiography of Kathryn Janeway, just because. I actually took advantage of the audiobooks.com free trial period to listen to Kate Mulgrew, herself, read it. What a treat! 🖖

Conclusion

I love this moment of reflection these monthly reviews give me. It’s a great exercise to see my progress, see where I am in relation to my goals and to start planning the month ahead.

By the way, I scheduled my appointment on April 30th for my corrective eye surgery. Another 2021 goal I want to get done! 🙂

The company seems to offer financing up to 24 months at 0% interest. I might go for that, if they don’t boost the price to make up for the 0% interest, of course. That way I wouldn’t be slashing too much of my immediate cash flow.

I’ll have the exact figure on that day, but I’ve been told it should be between $3,200 and $4,200. Of that amount, my workplace health account will cover $800.

Therefore, it’s possible that the April monthly review will come out a little late, while my eyes recover. 😉

Finally, I am already working on my next article about travel hacking and how I intend to travel at low cost. Although it is still impossible to predict when we will be able to travel again, it also doesn’t hurt to dream (and plan)!

See you next time and enjoy that spring!