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 8: $875 out of $1,787.59 net
  • April 22: $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 11: $975.00 out of $1,789.71
  • March 25: $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!

My Worst Financial Decision

I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by saying that buying a new car was my worst financial blunder. Who am I kidding? I even bought two! Yes, I made the mistake twice! As a matter of fact, I talked about it recently on the 20 ans, pas l’temps? podcast (french only). 😉

Shortly after my second purchase, which seemed quite reasonable at the time, reading En as-tu vraiment besoin? (english version: Do You Really Need It?) by Pierre-Yves McSween was like a slap in the face. It especially stung as I had had my new car for only about a month. Suddenly, the purchase seemed much less reasonable. Unfortunately, the damage was done and the car was already worth less than the balance of the new financing, as soon as I left the dealership lot.

I’d fallen into the lifestyle inflation trap. I was earning a good salary for my age and I felt that I “deserved it”.  That’s not to mention how much the auto industry goes out of its way to make sure we fall in that trap. McSween explains it especially well in his book (loose translation):

The auto industry fights vehemently to push the consumer out of the world of rationality. We use a fraction of the car’s useful life, but we pay the greatest annual cost. In fact, the price of a car is so high that, we prefer to forget its real price. What is being sold is a monthly, biweekly, weekly, or simply a lifestyle payment.

The many other personal finance books I read afterwards all had a fairly similar opinion. It only confirmed how wrong I had been. Besides not being too proud of myself, I felt stuck with my new car, since getting rid of it would mean selling at a loss, not to mention that I actually needed a car.

So for anyone thinking of buying a new car, let me tell you why it would be better to buy a (relatively) old car.

Those Damn Car Payments

Let’s take a look at how much my last seven years of car payments really amounts to.

To start, I bought my first new car in May 2014, which was a month after I finished college and landed a high-paying job. Classic, right?

Then, I switched in December 2016, after an aggressive offer from the dealership. The new loan included a portion of the previous car’s balance, since the value of the previous car was not enough to pay off the entire old loan. Crazy, huh? They’re passing this off to customers who think it’s just normal or fair. Everyone else is doing it!

In order to get a complete picture, I reviewed my bank statements. I calculated that I have spent about $35,000 in car payments so far. Add to that my current balance of about $7,000 as of today. So once the loan is completely paid off in November, I’ll have paid a total of $42,000.

Now, what will I have seven years and $42,000 later? A 5-year-old car worth less than $10,000 that will continue to depreciate and will require more and more maintenance.

Depressing, isn’t it?

If you had any doubt that a car was not a good investment, I hope this confirms it. In fact, it proves perfectly how a car pays a guaranteed negative return. Ironically, it’s often the people who buy new cars over and over again who’ll say the stock market because it’s too risky. 😉

The Opportunity Cost

Let’s now analyze the opportunity cost, i.e., the return I did not get by making my payments on these two cars, rather than investing the money. To do this, I will use this compound interest calculator.

Yes, we’re not done being depressed. I’d even say that it is a borderline masochistic exercise.

So, that $42,000 in car payments over about 7 years averages out to $460 per month. If I had invested those payments in the stock market with an 8% return (which was absolutely realistic from 2014 to now), I would have gotten :

So instead of a car worth roughly $10,000, I could have $51,572 more in my nest egg. We’re talking about a difference of $41,572. Of course, this difference takes into consideration that I wouldn’t have had a car at all. If you add in the purchase of a used car and its maintenance, the gap narrows. But you get the picture. It would never have cost me $42,000 over seven years for a used car.

Let’s Push the Torture Further

That was a good reality check, wasn’t it?

Let’s cry some more. Let’s add to this the compound interest on that $51,572 until I’m 65, which is 30 years after I finish financing my car. That’s without adding a dime to it.

Ouch. It’s getting quite expensive for that new car smell.

And finally, if I were to continue investing $460 a month until I was 65, as if I was continuously changing cars every couple of years:

Now, you can see the huge opportunity cost that comes with car payments over several decades. I will stop the torture at 65, but you get the idea. It’s not going to get any better by adding more years.

We all know someone who changes car every 4-5 years once the financing ends or the lease is up. Well, those people might need to do that kind of math to see how much that new car smell really costs.

Especially since, at the end of the day, the result is always the same, no matter when you decide to break the cycle. All we’re left with is a used car that will continue to depreciate (and leave us depressed).

A Good Learning Opportunity

If you decide to do the same exercise I did, you may find it hard to see the positive side of this.

Personally, I’m just glad I learned my lesson. It’s a shame I literally wasted so much money, but what’s done is done. It’s unfortunately irretrievable, so let’s not dwell on it and move on. 🙂

We make mistakes, but we’re human – and maybe that’s the word that best explains us.

– Captain James T. Kirk

If I’d never gotten into personal finance, maybe I’d have continued repeating the cycle over and over again, like most people. So I’m glad I’m getting away with only seven years of car payments, rather than decades. I’m also glad I didn’t fall into the luxury car trap. All the previous calculations would be much worse if I’d purchased a more luxurious car.

Also, fortunately, I now only have 17 bimonthly payments left to make! At the end of the financing, my 5-year-old car should be faithful to me for several more years. I will try to maintain it religiously so that it’ll last me as long as possible. After that, the next car, if I still need one, will definitely be used and certainly not financed.

The other great news about the imminent end of my car loan is that I will then allocate these funds directly to my savings. My savings rate should then increase… by about 20%! This will be very beneficial in achieving my goal of financial independence. 🙂

Conclusion

That was it. That was my worst financial mistake and all that it implies or could have implied in terms of opportunity cost. I advocate being honest as much as possible on this blog, and that means talking about the good moves as much as the bad ones. I’m not perfect, far from it, and maybe some less glowing examples will comfort you about your own missteps.

And that’s not all, I could give you other examples. Particularly, I haven’t (yet) touched on all the money I’ve spent at Comiccons or the various official Star Trek conventions in the US that I’ve attended. These are wonderful memories, but it certainly wasn’t free. 😉

What about you? Have you made similar bad financial mistakes? Have you calculated the opportunity cost, or are you not as masochistic as I am? And have you made peace with your mistake?

Please let me know!

How Relevant Is an Emergency Fund?

No, I don’t have an emergency fund.

Don’t throw tomatoes at me, please. I already know all the financial gurus of this world would be outraged.

Actually, I’ve had a funny ongoing thought process about emergency funds. Like any good average Quebecker, I’ve lived from paycheque to paycheque. At the time, I had no spare change between my income and my expenses and, of course, no emergency fund.

Then, when I started getting into personal finances, I followed Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, among others. So, I started by building up a small emergency fund of about $1,000, and then started working on paying off my student loan. Once the student loan was paid off in full, I built a proper emergency fund.

Then, with the influence of the FIRE movement, I began lowering my expenses, increasing my income and investing my savings massively. Suddenly, my emergency fund felt like a dead weight. After the pandemic was declared in Mars 2020, falling interest rates certainly did not help this sentiment. Not long after, I decided to invest the entire thing in April 2020.

Since then, I no longer have an emergency fund. And you know what? I can still sleep soundly at night.

What Is an Emergency Fund?

As for many other personal finance notion, opinions differ widely about the emergency fund, especially its size. However, we often hear about having the equivalent of 3 to 6 months’ worth of expenses in cash or at least easily accessible. Of course, the more unstable our income or employment situation is, the more we need to stack in our emergency fund. For some, it might be safer to have up to 12 months’ worth of expenses, for example.

The goal here is to be able to cover expenses for a certain period of time following hard times or to absorb an unexpected specific expense.

In my case, I have a very stable job with a predictable and secure income. Accumulating more than 3 to 6 months would really be overkill. Currently, my monthly expenses are around $2,000, including my car payments. Therefore, you would expect for me to have between $6,000 and $12,000 in cash, easily accessible. By “easily accessible,” we generally mean a simple savings account.

As always, it’s on a case-by-case basis.

Who Should Have an Emergency Fund

Think about it. Who really needs an emergency fund? Who would be at risk of going bankrupt after a major unexpected expense? Who might lose their home after losing their job?

Ironically, these are the people who live paycheque to paycheque. For them, the slightest problem could very well break down their cash flow. In such a context, an emergency fund is essential. However, since these people are already living from paycheck to paycheck, it is very difficult to build one in the first place.

However, for a person who already regularly saves a large portion of their income, an emergency will not compromise their basic needs.

As mentioned earlier, my monthly expenses are about $2,000 compared to an average monthly income of $3,500. That means I already have a good amount of leeway in case of an emergency.

Opportunity Cost

What I don’t like about the emergency fund is the return I don’t get while the money is not invested. I really like for my money to work for me.

As we all know, interest rates on savings accounts are currently at historic low levels. For example, Tangerine generously gives me an incredible 0.10% interest rate right now.

Of course, I am aware that some online banks offer (temporary) promotions of maybe 1 to 2%. However, this implies that you have to constantly move your money from one bank to another once the promotion expires. Personally, I find that it takes too much time and energy for a meager 1 or 2%.

In a single year, my hypothetical $6,000 to $12,000 emergency fund would earn $6 to $12 in interest in my Tangerine savings account. On the other hand, if it were invested in an index ETF, it could make a much better return. Even with a rather conservative hypothetical return of 6%, I would be making about $360 to $720. That’s 60 times more than my savings account at Tangerine!

Add to that compound interest from one year to the next and the opportunity cost only increases exponentially.

I don’t know about you, but the difference pains me.

Inflation

Add inflation to the mix and I may start to cry. Because while my hypothetical emergency fund is earning its meager 0.10% interest, inflation is wreaking havoc at an average of 2% per year. Probable more in the years to come.

So, if I let my emergency fund sit there too long, it will only lose purchasing power, year after year.

To keep the same purchasing power and have an equivalent emergency fund from one year to the next, I would theoretically have to add to it every year. Each additional amount added each year would in turn be subject to the opportunity cost and inflation.

As you can see, inflation keeps me awake at night more than stock market fluctuations. To me, money that is not invested is 100% guaranteed to lose value.

Can the same be said for money that is well invested in the stock market?

Safety Nets Already in Place

In 2018, I was already questioning the relevance of my emergency fund. In December, more precisely, I was briefly off work after a case of appendicitis. Despite a month without working, I never had to dip into my emergency fund. Indeed, I was lucky enough to have a short-term disability coverage through my employer.

However, even if I didn’t have such coverage, my expenses were low enough to be almost entirely covered by EI Sickness benefits.

This made me start thinking about all the systems already in place for emergencies. You have to think about all these safety nets that you may already have. You’ve probably guessed it, but insurance plays the main part. After all, why do we buy insurance in the first place? Usually, it’s to cover unexpected and random events. In other words, emergencies.

Some examples of such systems include the following:

  • Private insurance:
    • Home;
    • Automobile;
    • Loan;
    • Critical Illness;
    • Pets (it’s a thing!);
    • Travel;
    • Etc.
  • Group insurance :
    • Short Term Disability;
    • Long Term Disability;
    • Critical llness;
    • Extended Health;
    • Etc.
  • Public programs
    • Employment Insurance;
    • The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST);
    • The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ);
    • Disability Pension from QPP or CPP;
    • Etc.

We cannot deny it. In Canada, we already have many safety nets. Since March 2020, we have even seen how generous our governments can be in times of crisis.

Add to that our own private or group insurance and we start having a lot of backups against emergencies.

Of course, if you don’t have any private or group insurance, then an emergency fund could really be relevant. This allows you, in a way, to self-insure.

What Is an Emergency

Think about it. What could go so wrong in your life that you would have to dip into an emergency fund?

The main emergencies that come to mind are, but are not limited to :

  • Job loss;
  • Disability;
  • A sick family member;
  • A major home expense;
  • A car problem;
  • Veterinarian fees;
  • Etc.

We’re really talking about emergencies here. Not Christmas expenses or a can’t-miss discount on a trip abroad.

In short, imagine what kind of emergency could happen in your life. Which of these scenarios would be covered in part or in full by insurance that you already have, directly or indirectly?

Finally, what kind of emergency would you really have to cover exclusively with your emergency fund?

Now, if you didn’t have an emergency fund, would you be able to take pay for it with a credit card or with a line of credit, temporarily? Would you be able to pay it back fairly quickly with your excess cash flow normally dedicated to savings?

Of course, this kind of strategy requires excellent credit management. If you carry a credit card balance from one month to the next and are already choking on astronomical interest charges, this strategy is definitely not for you. In fact, go back to Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.

Finally, if the worst that can happen to you is to temporarily reduce your savings to cover an emergency, you’re really not in such a bad situation.

The Ultimate Loophole

Finally, underconsumption and frugality are, in my opinion, the ultimate loophole to exploit in order to survive an emergency.

Earlier, I mentioned my average monthly expenses of about $2,000. That’s already pretty frugal to some people. However, if a real emergency occurred, I could cut some non-essential expenses (SAQ, Netflix, Spotify, charitable donations). I could also sell my car to pay off my loan in full, in addition to no longer having any expenses related to my car (licence, plates, gas, maintenance). If I brought this down to the bare minimum, it could total about $1,000 in monthly expenses.

Then, in the event of a job loss with EI eligibility, I could have weekly taxable benefits of $595 or approximately $450 net. This would actually be enough to cover my expenses.

What if I lose my job without EI eligibility? With such low expenses, even a minimum-wage job would be enough to support me.

If there’s an urgent expense without job loss (visit to the vet, an appliance broke down, etc.), then the difference between my income and my expenses could easily pay for it.

Keep in mind that having a frugal lifestyle, even if only temporary, can help make a difficult situation much more tolerable.

Worst-Case Scenario

I know that some anxious or pessimistic people tend to imagine the worst.

Thus, they may bring up worst-case scenarios. For example, what happens in the event of job loss, in addition to a critical illness with no insurance coverage?

First of all, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Furthermore, anyone facing this kind of situation will not get away with a mere 3 to 6-month emergency fund, unfortunately.

However, Employment Insurance does pay 15 weeks of sickness benefits, and then QPP (or CPP) provides a disability pension in the case of a serious and permanent illness, and this, at any age.

After that, well you might need to dip in your nest egg. But then, at least you do have a nest egg, huh?

More importantly, what are the chances that this type of situation will really happen? No one is entirely protected against that, I agree. However, I don’t see the added value of living in fear of such a scenario.

Like Mr. Money Mustache himself said pretty recently about the advice he would give to his younger self:

Yeah, I thought about that a lot. I do have an answer and it’s just, “You don’t have to worry.”

I lost some sleep over that situation and then I just described and I was stressed out and there was nothing to worry about. In the very-very worse situation, I still have way better financial situation than the average person does today, even with a really good job. […] I think most people, especially analytical people, they just worry too much about everything.

To Each Their Own

I thought long and hard about all of the above before I fully invested my emergency funds last year. With the pandemic, I think we’ve all had to envision many worst-case scenarios. Personally, it made me realize that even in some of the worst cases, I didn’t really feel the need to have so much cash on hand.

So that’s why I don’t have any emergency funds at the moment. This way, I can inject 100% of my savings in the stock market and I don’t have any money that is prone to lose purchasing power due to inflation.

However, I am well aware that this strategy does not apply to everyone. Some people sleep better at night knowing that they have a cash cushion in case something goes wrong. Others have many more variables in their equation than I do that can cause emergencies (children, sick parents, a house or rental properties, etc.). These people have their very own thinking and analysis to do.

In fact, once I reach FIRE, I will probably have no choice but to change my mind. Since my income will depend mostly on the moods of the stock markets, not to mention no longer having a group insurance, I believe that I will sleep better with a certain amount of money set aside.

Ultimately, having an emergency fund has a positive effect on a psychological level, much more than on a financial level. Ed Rempel’s research conclusions explains it perfectly well:

The study showed that holding cash does not protect you. In fact, it often increases your risk of running out of money.

There is an argument that holding cash has a good behavioural effect on investors. With some cash, they may stay invested and avoid the “Big Mistake” of selling their equities while they are down. To the extent this is true, holding some cash may be beneficial for the behavioural effect only.

But cash does not actually protect you. It’s safer not to hold cash.

Considering all of this, I’m aware that I will have to re-evaluate my situation when I get there.

That being said, I would be curious to hear your point of view on the subject. Do you have an emergency fund? How big is it? Have you had to dip into it for an emergency? What kind of emergency was it?

Don’t hesitate to let me know! 🙂

February 2021 Review

Hello!

I just knew February was going to go by very fast. 🙂

Seriously, between finalizing my old job’s last few files, starting my new position and writing my withdrawal strategy article, time just flew by! It’s quite a good thing for someone who doesn’t like winter too much. During a lockdown, on top of it! I’m also quite glad to see that we’re gaining a few more minutes of daylight every week. That’s a very positive thing in my book. 🙂

I’m also happy to report that things are going really well in my new role. I have a lot to learn, since I’m far from my usual field of expertise. So that usually means my brain is mush at the end of the day, but I’m confident I’ll handle the work fairly quickly.

Now let’s get down to business.

Net Worth as of February 28, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,228
$34,983
$44,969
$35,135
$5,752
$13,427
$976
Total assets:$136,470
Liabilities
Car Loan:
Line of Credit:
Tangerine Master Card:
Amex Air Miles:
BMO Air Miles:
Amex Aeroplan:
$7,384
$3,000
$0
$0
$0
$0
Total liabilities:$10,384
Net Worth$126,086
Difference+$4,968

What a weird month in the markets! Seriously, how many days in a row were the markets green at the beginning of February? It was not rare to see clickbait articles predicting an imminent crash almost every day. Reaching all-time highs every day, week (and even month) was obviously cause for concern. So it wasn’t too surprising to see the second half of the month rebalancing things.

However, I would like to emphasize that the recent decline has not completely erased the bullish rise that preceded it. In fact, both the S&P 500 and the S&P/TSX show an overall increase in February. 🙂

Personally, I try to remove all emotion from my transactions. Mr. Spock would be proud of me. 🖖

My plan is to save as much as I can on every paycheck I get. I invest on every second Thursday, whether it’s green or red. It doesn’t matter. I invest, no matter what happens in the short term. Anyway, what matters is long-term.

Bonus

Good news! My employer confirmed our annual bonus. It will be paid out on March 25th. Knowing the amount in advance ($6,000 gross), I have decided to take the net amount ($3,000) out of my personal LOC and invest it right away while the markets were down.

I was already planning to save and invest my entire bonus anyway. So I just got ahead of the curve.

Once I receive my bonus on March 25, I will simply pay off my LOC. For your information, it’s a personal LOC offered by Tangerine with a 5.45% interest rate.

Cryptocurrency

Contrary to my very boring index investments in the stock markets, I allow myself to speculate a bit more with crypto. Actually, I only allocate a small portion (1%) of my portfolio that I intend to hold for the long term. I am looking into the mechanics of cryptocurrency and the blockchain, and I place my pawns as I go along. It is a very wild ride. Faint of hearts beware. 😉

I also got three $30 bonuses on Shakepay this month. Thanks to the readers of this blog who used my reference code. 🙂

Also, thanks to Shakepay’s feature that allows me to stack Satoshis (a subunit of Bitcoin) every day by shaking my phone, I have now accumulated 0.0004352 BTC for a series of 47 consecutive days. At the price of the BTC as it is now, it means about $26 only for shaking my phone. I have also deposited all my BTC in BlockFI which allows me to earn 6% interest on it.

Savings

Here are the details of my February savings:

  • February 11: $700 out of $1,710.66 (41% savings)
  • February 25: $840 out of $2,017.17 net (42% savings)
  • Total savings: $1,540 in February or 41% savings

Of the $1,540 I saved, I contributed $1,050 to my TFSA and purchased $490 worth of cryptography outside a registered account.

It could definitely be better on the savings rate front, but I had some spending to do to unlock my credit card bonuses. I’ve made some expenses ahead of time by buying Spotify, Netflix and SAQ gift cards. I also made my annual donation all at once, rather than spreading it out on a monthly basis. Since these are already paid for, I should be able to save a little more in the next following weeks and months.

These expenses have allowed me to get my bonuses of 3,950 Air Miles and 10,000 Aeroplan points (as well as the Buddy Pass). Now, I just have to wait to actually travel. 😉

With my promotion, my March bonus and my yearly raise in April (3.5%), I expect a slight increase in my average savings rate. I should be on track to reach my savings goal!

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-02-01$497.50Rent
2021-02-01$89.15Groceries
2021-02-01$25.00SAQ
2021-02-02$7.15Spotify
2021-02-02$10.00Donation
2021-02-03$160.00Passport
2021-02-04$62.38Mondou
2021-02-04$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-02-04$13.33Pharmacy
2021-02-04$100.00Donation
2021-02-04$25.00Netflix
2021-02-04$30.00Spotify
2021-02-05$48.04Car Insurance
2021-02-06$3.40Starbucks
2021-02-11$168.94Amazon
2021-02-12$403.85Car Payment
2021-02-14$3.40Starbucks
2021-02-14$8.04Groceries
2021-02-18$102.93Groceries
2021-02-20$20.83Gas
2021-02-20$3.40Starbucks
2021-02-23$6.14Subway
2021-02-26$403.85Car Payment
2021-02-27$3,86Starbucks
2021-02-28$27.02Home Internet
Total:$2,315,94

In February, I spent $2,315,94, which means $27,791,22 annualized. Excluding my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,508.24 or $18,098,82 annualized.

In addition to my travel hacking expenses, I had to renew my passport and I bought a Valentine’s Day gift for my mother and my grandmother.

I also had a somewhat big expense on Amazon for a treadmill that I had been looking to buy for a while. Luckily, my employer reimburses a fair amount for sports activities. That means I only had to pay $168 out of my own pocket. Considering that the treadmill should be good for a couple of years, that’s much cheaper than a gym membership. 😉

Finally, I still don’t have a mobile phone bill to pay this month. Thanks to everyone who used my Fizz promo code (N5MMB)! As things are right now, I won’t have to pay anything until June. That’s very much appreciated!

Reading List

February was another great month to read. I’m not at all a winter sports fan, so I’ll be found more often cuddled in a blanket with a book, rather than out playing in the snow.

At the same time, although I’m outside much more often in the summer, you’d probably still find me with a book in my hands. Once a nerd, always a nerd.

You can see that it would be totally unprofitable for me to buy every book I read! There’s a reason why I love the public library so much. 🙂

So, my reading list for February looked like this:

From this list, I highly recommend the book on Elon Musk. Whether you like him or not, he is undeniably a genius and human beings will benefit from his long-term vision.

I also liked Courage, Vision, Passion after I stole this reading idea from L’investisseur caféiné. I don’t necessarily plan to invest in real estate, but it was still a fascinating read. The focus on the millionaire mindset, the importance of thinking big and controlling our fears were the highlights for me. That goes to show that a success starts in the mind!

My Favourite Season

Of course, with March comes tax season. 😉

Seriously, I can’t wait to get started. I already have my T4 and Relevé 1 in hand, but I won’t have the form for remote work (detailed method) until mid-March. Only then I’ll be able to do my tax return, plus my sister’s and my brother’s. At the very least, I want to send my sister’s tax return as early as possible. She boosted her RRSP and she’d like to avoid paying interest on her loan for too long. 🙂

For my part, despite the fact that I filled out the T1213 form for my employer to withhold less tax in 2020, I still expect a tax refund of about $1,500. Guess what I’m going to do with it?

For future articles on this blog, I’m thinking of writing an article on my worst financial mistake (I’ll let you guess which) and the associated opportunity cost. I’m also planning an article on the emergency fund, or my lack thereof. If you have any specific topics to suggest for a future article, please feel free to let me know in the comments section.

I look forward to hearing from you!

9 Tips For a Great Job Interview

Yes, I mentioned it in my latest monthly review:

I recently got a promotion! 🙂

As you already know, saving and investing as much as possible is essential to reaching FI. Of course, there are two important variables that can be changed to increase one’s ability to save. I’m talking, of course, about expenses and income.

On the expense front, I believe mine are already quite well optimized and it can only be lowered so far. I already lead a rather frugal life. So I decided to take a page from my own book and increase my income. A particularly interesting way to do this is to increase my hourly wage. This way, I earn more money working more hours. Double win!

In my current role, I actually asked for a raise last year. I got 12%. Just for asking for it! Imagine if I hadn’t had the courage to do it?

Be Open to Opportunities

This year, though, I could hardly see how I could get such a substantial raise in my current role again. So, I began to look for a different position within the same company.

I quickly found an interesting position one level higher, i.e. a 7.5% salary raise, and for which I seemed to meet the profile they were looking for.

Of course, it was in a completely different team and I didn’t know anyone on that team. I didn’t necessarily meet all the requirements mentioned on the job posting. My resume needed a makeover. I had to do a cover letter. Job interviews are stressful.

Considering all this, I could have used any one of these excuses not to give it a try. I know a lot of people around me who like to make this kind of excuses to stay in the status quo. Well, I decided to go for it.

Personally, I prefer to think I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I applied for the job. Because if you do not ask, the answer will always be no. 🙂

Preparation is Key

No matter how much self-confidence I have, I remain an introvert through and through. I am comfortable writing, but oral presentations have never been my forte. You can imagine how a job interview can make me anxious.

I am very aware of my weaknesses in this regard. I also know that the best weapon against my anxiety is preparation.

Here is the result of my research, preparation and experience. This is how I got my promotion. Who knows, maybe you’ll find it useful!

1. Prepare for the Most Frequently Asked Questions

A simple search on Google or YouTube will allow you to find plenty of resources on the most frequently asked questions and how to answer them. Questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself;
  • What are your strengths;
  • What are your weaknesses;
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years;
  • Why did you apply for the job;
  • Why do you want to quit your current job;
  • Etc.

Just check out a few sites or videos to get a good idea. There are plenty of people who have already been on the other side of the table who know exactly what questions will be asked and how to answer them.

This way, you’ll be able to think about your answers and be ready for most questions you could be asked.

2. Prepare Elaborate Answers and Stories

In addition to the typical questions, there are often questions that can be adapted to the job. You might be asked to give an example of a particular situation that you’ve experienced in the past. For example, you may be asked to give an example of:

  • A difficult situation at work;
  • A difficult customer;
  • Particularly good customer service you’ve given or received;
  • Work overload and how you handled it;
  • Etc.

So it’s very helpful to have some career highlights in mind when you’re being asked these kinds of questions. Think about difficult or stressful situations, but especially how you overcame them. Also think about some good things you’ve done, procedures or methods you’ve improved, etc.

These kinds of questions can be really annoying if you don’t have some ready-made answers in your back pocket. You have to be quick to answer. Of course, you can take a few seconds to think about it, but you don’t want to answer that nothing comes to mind. It’s your time to shine, don’t waste it!

3. Learn More About the Position, the Team and the Company

You don’t want to look like someone who applied for the job just for fun or for the money. 😉

You must show that you have at least some knowledge of the position in question and that you are really interested. The first thing to do is to read and basically know the job posting by heart. Sometimes job postings just sound so abstract, and it’s hard to know exactly what the job involves without actually doing it, but reading the job posting will give you at least an idea.

If it’s a job for another employer, it’s good to know the company in question. Do your research.

4. Smile and Have a Positive Attitude

No one wants to hire a negative person.

Be enthusiastic, smile, ask questions, look interested and thank the interviewer. Show them that you’re happy to be there, that it’s a pleasure to meet them and to discuss opportunities for your future career.

Positive attracts positive, so be positive.

In addition to talent and qualifications, employers are often looking for a good fit. I guarantee that a person who sounds and looks negative will rarely be a good fit in any team. It doesn’t matter what team.

5. Remember It’s Not an Interrogation

An interrogation sucks for everyone.

Relax, remember that the person in front of you is a human being too who wants the process to be as enjoyable as possible. You may be the fifth person they’ve interviewed today. Make it a little more enjoyable for them.

Ask questions along the way, too, if you have any. It creates a nice back and fort and makes the conversation more natural.

6. Save Questions for the End

Inevitably, you will be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. It is important to have questions.

Once again, it shows interest, curiosity and, it could actually be useful to you. You probably have legitimate questions on your mind anyway. It’s a win-win situation.

Again, Google is full of suggestions of questions to ask if you’re short of ideas. Here’s one I wrote down, asked, and am particularly proud of:

“After our discussion, is there anything else that makes you hesitate to offer me the job?”

What makes this question so powerful is that it gives an idea of your chances. It also shows that you are able to take charge and handle criticism. Finally, it could give you a second chance to clarify or elaborate on a point that was perhaps not clear or that makes the interviewer hesitate.

However, if you have questions about benefits and working conditions, it can wait until after you’re offered the job.

7. Send a Thank-You Email

I know. It feels like sucking up.

I read on several websites that it was important to send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. Once again, it allows you to show you’re really interested, and it shows your gratitude. That’s another example of having nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I was still reluctant to do it. Probably my introversion striking again. So I asked the opinion of a friend who interviews candidates on a regular basis. His answer was clear: it’s an excellent thing to do. So I proceeded with a nice little email:

“It was a real pleasure to discuss with you both and to learn as much about the role as about your team. It has only increased my enthusiasm to join you and put my experience to good use. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

I still think it sounds lame, but an hour later I was asked to provide references.  It sounds like it didn’t do any harm. 🙂

8. Notify the People You Will Use as References

Seriously.

No one likes to be called for references without prior notice. A quick phone call or email to notify the person is the least you can do. That person will appreciate having time to think about what they can say. You want the person to recommend you after all. Don’t take them by surprise.

It’s also a good idea to think ahead of time whom to use as a reference. If you are asked for one, it’s suspicious if it takes you two days to find one. Are you recommendable or not?

9. Be Patient

You’ve now done everything within your power. All that’s left is to trust your ability to have swayed them and wait for the good news. 🙂

A Great Learning Opportunity

Even before I got the good news, I was over the moon. I knew that I had prepared enough and performed well during the interview. No matter the result, I had had the opportunity to put myself out there and make myself known. It can never be a bad thing.

Even if I was not offered the job, I would roll up my sleeves and keep looking. You just have to appreciate having had a chance to prove yourself, to practise your interview skills and to make yourself known. You also have to take criticism humbly and then start working on your weaknesses.

I don’t remember the exact phrase, but a dear friend shared a quote to me recently. It said that to be happy no matter the outcome is a superpower. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

All’s Well That Ends Well

Luckily, I was offered the job! I will be starting on February 15th in my new position. I have been told that I was “a great find” and that they’re looking forward to working with me. What more could I ask for?

Oh, yes, the raise that I plan to fully save and invest. 🙂

I’m also hopeful that I’ll enjoy my new role. Although I was hired for my insurance expertise, there is a retirement & saving component that I will need to be “trained” for. I believe I am up to the challenge. 😉

I see a trend emerging! Indeed, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one in the blogosphere to have been promoted recently. Indeed,  ObjectifIF and L’Ingénieuse will also be able to increase their savings thanks to a promotion. Huge congratulations to them and I wish them the best of success!

What about you? Have you thought about how you could increase your income in 2021? 🙂

January 2021 Review

Hello!

Already one month behind us! Even though it’s a rather boring time of the year, even without a pandemic, I feel like time went by pretty fast. My blog and Facebook page keep me pretty busy, on top of the overtime I did at work and the time I’ve spent preparing for a job interview!

It just goes to show that the best way to survive this never-ending pandemic is to stay busy. 🙂

So here we are, already starting a new month. Let’s see how my net worth has grown in this past month!

Net Worth as of January 31, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,369
$32,176
$43,405
$33,916
$5,752
$13,427
$307
Total assets:$130,352
Liabilities
Car Loan:
Line of Credit:
Tangerine Master Card:
Amex Air Miles:
BMO Air Miles:
Amex Aeroplan:
$8,192
$1,000
$0
$0
$31
$11
Total liabilities:$9,234
Net Worth$121,118
Difference+$3,313

My net worth is now $121,118! That’s a $3,313 increase since December 31, 2020. It had been a good month for the stock market, right up until last week, when everything went haywire. It doesn’t matter much, since I continue following my savings and investment plan and as a result, my investments slowly but surely keep going up. 🙂

As a matter of fact, a reader wrote to me recently and wondered if the monthly portfolio value was the best way to track one’s net worth. She thought that it fluctuates excessively from one month to another, and it could be discouraging during periods of decline.

I have to agree that tracking my net worth so closely involves a lot of fluctuations. However, I am aware that this is part of the game and I have an excellent risk tolerance. Since I already track my net worth in my spreadsheets on a monthly basis, I decided to include it on my blog on the same basis, along with my expense reports.

However, I realize that I will eventually have to compress the data on the graph (due to lack of space) on my net worth page, possibly to three-month intervals. This should smoothen the curve a bit. 😉

Portfolio Changes

I decided to start the year with a few small changes to my portfolio. As I mentioned in previous articles, my main investments are with Questrade, split between a LIRA, an RRSP and a TFSA. In all three accounts, I held only XEQT, an all-in-one ETF by iShares made up of 100% equities, 22% of which are Canadian.

Reducing Home Country Bias

After doing some reading, notably Ed Rempel‘s blog, I decided to reevaluate my home country bias, i.e. being too widely exposed to one’s own country’s stocks. Indeed, Canada represents about 3% of the world economy and is primarily based on resources and banks. Knowing this, how is it good diversification to hold 22% of my portfolio in Canadian stocks?

Especially since I have (unfortunately) about 15% of my portfolio in labour-sponsored funds that invest only in local companies. That means my home country bias is actually quite high. It actually amounts to about 33% of my total portfolio in Canadian equities.

After some thought, I chose ZGQ (graciously brought to my attention by one of this blog’s reader) to reduce my home country bias a bit, in addition to getting a bit more exposure to emerging countries. This ETF actually seeks to replicate the performance of the MSCI All Country World High Quality.

However, I only made the change in my TFSA, where I want to get the maximum return. I still hold XEQT in my LIRA and RRSP. This will gradually reduce my portfolio’s total exposure to Canadian stocks as I continue contributing to my TFSA.

A Healthy Dose of FOMO

Yes, I joined the Bitcoin train (or rocket?). It finally went down after its all-time high in early January. So I took the opportunity to learn a bit more about Bitcoin, then invested a small amount of money. Initially, I decided to do this by buying a few units of the new Bitcoin ETF QBTC. This way, I can take advantage of the possible gains of Bitcoin in my TFSA, which cannot be done by the traditional method.

Afterwards, I continued to read up on Bitcoin and learned about the Montreal application called Shakepay and decided to actually buy Bitcoin this way. In fact, by using a referral link, I was getting $30 by buying $100 worth of cryptography. So why not? An instant return of 30%. 😉

More seriously, I prefer to set myself a limit of 1% of my portfolio with regard to cryptocurrency. I think setting a limit will prevent me from going overboard on this. What’s more, it’s an amount I’m willing to lose. And if I ever make a  sizeable profit, even better! I just don’t intend to speculate, but to buy and hold it like with my other holdings.

Savings

Here are the details of my January savings:

  • January 14: $750 out of $1,710.67 (44% savings)
  • January 28: $1,035 out of $2,005.17 net (52% savings)
  • Total savings: $1,785 in January or 48% savings

Of the $1,785 I saved, I contributed $1,550 to my TFSA and added $235 to Shakepay.

The higher pay is justified by a few extra overtime hours in January.

Also, starting at the end of February, I’ll start getting bigger pays because I got a promotion! Before the holidays, I had applied to a higher-level position within another team. I didn’t necessarily have a lot of hope to get a call, as I didn’t know anyone on that team. You know it: it’s better to know someone than to know something. Luckily, I got the call and a few days after the interview, I was offered the job. 🙂

So, I will go from a base annual salary of $71,180 to $76,600, which is a 7.6% increase. There will also be a yearly increase in April, which should be around 3%, which would bring my salary to $78,898.

I’m not just talking about increasing income. Trying to walk the talk!

Finally, my $25,000 savings goal for 2021 will be slightly easier to achieve than I thought. You know me well enough to know I plan to save 100% of my raise. 🙂

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-01-01$120.00American Express Annual Fees
2021-01-01$6.79Starbucks
2021-01-02$7.15Spotify
2021-01-02$10.00Donation
2021-01-02$18.39Mondou
2021-01-02$13.41Gas
2021-01-03$96.42Groceries
2021-01-04$497.50Rent
2021-01-04$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-05$14.39Home Insurance
2021-01-05$48.04Car Insurance
2021-01-07$14.23Subway
2021-01-07$12.50SAQ
2021-01-09$7.70Netflix
2021-01-09$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-13$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-01-13$71.95Home Insurance
2021-01-15$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-17$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-17$101.00Groceries
2021-01-21$25.21Pharmacy
2021-01-23$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-25$11.09Pharmacy
2021-01-28$20.82Gas
2021-01-28$15.29Groceries
2021-01-28$2.70Starbucks
2021-01-29$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-30$27.60Home Internet
2021-01-31$3.40Starbucks
Total:$2,396.83

In January, I had $2,396.83 in total expenses, or $28,761.96 annualized. Excluding my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,185.28 or $14,223.36 annualized. The big difference between the two is explained by three car payments I had this month, instead of the usual two.

Otherwise, one month look like the next! I should be ashamed: $23.09 in Starbucks coffee. Just think about it! That’s $277.08 a year! It would take $6,927 invested to generate enough passive income to pay for this bad habit! I just can’t wait to do anything other than car rides. 😉

Also, there are some transactions related to travel hacking, such as the $120 annual fee on my Prestige Aeroplan American Express. I also paid my home insurance policy balance in full to help me reach the required spending on my BMO AIR MILES Mastercard to unlock the 850 bonus miles. Once again, I didn’t spend more to earn points, I spent money I was going to spend in the future. 🙂

It’s ironic, really. My biggest challenge with Travel Hacking right now is to find a way to reach the spending thresholds necessary to unlock my bonuses. Luckily, Milesopedia gives good tips on how to do this.

Reading List

My Facebook page followers may have noticed: I am an avid reader. I often read several books in parallel, in addition to the occasional audiobook. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll reach Warren Buffett’s level:

Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.

In addition to reading, I also like to share about the latest books I’ve read and know what others are reading. In that vein, I thought adding this section to my monthly reviews could be interesting to my readers. 🙂

So, my January reading list looked like this:

I have to admit it: I’m a Self-Help junkie. I still try to balance a bit between fiction and non-fiction. By the way, don’t be surprised to see a Star Trek novel in it from time to time.

Of this list, the one I recommend the most is definitely The Psychology of Money. For me, it was a perfect mix of two subjects I love.  Also, anyone who is struggling to make lasting changes in their lives would also benefit from reading The Power of Discipline.

February Is Going to Fly By!

February only has 28 days, after all.

Next Monday’s article will focus on job interviews and how to prepare for it, especially when you’re an introvert like me. The following week, I’m going to take a little break. I’ll start working on my new position then, and I want to be able to focus mostly on that. 🙂

So I’ll still have two weeks to put together an article on my withdrawal strategy once I’ve reached FIRE. Many of you are asking me to do an article on this, so I’ll try not to disappoint.

I will also have access to my T4 & RL-1 on February 16. This nerd will be very happy to get started on doing tax returns ! In addition to mine, I always do my sister’s and brother’s tax returns. 🙂

I’m especially looking forward to doing my sister’s tax return to apply the method to boost her RRSP contributions as perfectly as possible before March 1st.

As a matter of fact, do you have any suggestions for a good software to do multiple tax returns? I’ve been using UFile since 2014 without looking too closely at what others offer. I’m open to suggestions!

See you next time!