FI/RE-Friendly Job Hunting

I am very focused on reaching FI in less than 15 years. That involves a lot of sacrifice, but it doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. If you don’t like your job, change it, even if it means taking a small hit to your finances. If you do change jobs, and you do take a financial hit, make sure the benefits out weight the negatives. Here are some things I like to ask a prospective employer:

Preface: So I’ve gotten to a point in my career where the type of work that is available for me has become quite specific due to my skillset. This means when I look for a new job, my decisions almost completely lies in what the company culture has to offer, and what benefits the company offers. Here are the questions I usually ask that end up adding the most weight to my decisions.

How big is your company? I want to know how many people I’ll get to work with and learn from. Small group places allow you to meet the other members of your proposed team. Larger groups increase the likelihood that you’ll make long-term friends. This all depends on the general culture of the company, however.
What is the career growth path of your company? Do you stay as a [job]? or do you become a [job manager]? is there room to become at [job vp]? Companies that are excited to tell you about the growth room tend to be growing and like to promote within!
How do you reward tenure? Sometimes not moving from job to job can stifle your growth both personally, experience-wise, and salary-wise. However, some companies who treat individuals as a valuable cog in the large machine, offer incentives to keep people growing. This can include bonus time off, milestone rewards (5 years, 10 years), salary reevaluation, conferences, and more. This is a huge deal breaker for me usually, as I like to become invested in my employer.
How much time off do you offer? The more the better. Period. Can you bank vacation days? Can you get paid out for vacation days? Are they generally more flexible around your needs? Do they track or limit sick days? This is a huge question for myself as I like to travel. If you don’t, you can always use a day at home to play catchup. Think about it!
What do you guys do for fun around the office? I go to the office to work. However, sometimes it’s nice to get up and take a breather, have an after work event, or a holiday-related event. A fun work environment is always a good thing.
How do you celebrate victories together? If the company ever takes you out for lunch, dinner, or drinks, you can definitely consider that a bonus. I’ve received gift cards, days off, and been able to attend some excellent team parties when deadlines are reach. These are the best days at work, and the more the better. Booze isn’t really a huge benefit honestly, but it’s a nice treat.
Let me know what you think. Anything else you really look for in a company?
-Mike
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Learn Useful Skills

If you’re into homesteading, DIY, and reducing your costs before and during retirement, it pays to be handy. General skills with tools like tape measures, levels, chalk lines, saws, drills are all simple things to learn well and let you do things yourself without having to pay someone else.

For myself, who might sit on the slightly extreme side of DIY, I’m planning on picking up some more specialized skills. I may even be able to make money offering these skills to others further down the road, but the intent is to make myself very self sufficient. The list of skills I have going so far:

  • Welding
  • Sewing
  • Basic Car Mechanics

In addition to DIY skills, you should also consider what your physical fitness has going for it. Being active is important but there are some skills that could save your or a loved one’s life. These include:

  • Being able to run a mile without stopping. The faster the better, but the fact that you can get somewhere on foot fast is huge. An accident while hiking? Get to a road. Need to run from something? Self explanatory.
  • Being able to swim 100m. I would actually say more than this. If you can rescue someone from the water, make it to shore from a sinking boat, you’re way ahead of so many people. After the sinking of the cruise ship off of Italy where a lot of people died, could I have swam 500m to shore? Hell no. I’d be sunk.
  • Being able to drive manual. Manual cars are more efficient on gas and generally less expensive. Less people can drive manual cars so you can get a better deal buying used.

Hang Dry Your Clothes

A couple years ago while visiting friends in Melbourne, Australia, I had some downtime so I decided to do some laundry. After the washing was done, I noticed there was no dryer. Oh, looks like I’m using a clothesline for the first time since childhood. I still get grief from my Aussie friends regarding North Americans’ use of dryers. In Canada, we don’t have the luxury of drying clothes outside all year round, but you can hang them inside during the winter as your house will be very dry (for those of us in Southeastern Ontario, anyways).

There are a huge number of benefits for such a simple task:

  1. Less damaging to your clothing [Lint is your clothing degrading]
  2. Wash Less! [Okay, so it’s labour intensive to dry everything. Only wash when dirty!]
  3. Better for the environment! [No electricity required!]
  4. No electricity required so it’s free! [No electricity or coin dryer cost]
  5. Humidify your house! [In the winter the added moisture will keep you healthier]
  6. Get outside! [Enjoy a few minutes outside; we all can use it]

Try it! More money in your pocket and better for the environment; it’s a double win!

-Mike

 

What is a Homestead?

According to the all-knowing source, Wikipedia, homesteading is described as:

Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.

I’d say this is pretty accurate as a general idea but a homestead can mean something different to anyone. I can only speak for myself, but homesteading is about turning the clock back 50-100 years with all the benefits of the modern day. My grandparents and their grandparents definitely put in more leg work at home to stretch a dollar further, and there is a huge amount of value in doing so!

By building a homestead, and doing things like gardening, canning, cooking, smoking, hunting, foraging, farming, fishing, fermenting, cheese making, baking, bee keeping, and charcuterie you can help offset so many of your living costs and enjoy in things that are truly human, and feed the human soul. For me, the savings are a benefit, but not the reason I want to build a homestead.

Building a lifestyle that is enjoyable is paramount; it is the single most important thing you can do for yourself. Happiness is the goal. If this lifestyle happens to be sustainable, and profitable, you can’t go wrong!

If the above things I mentioned don’t do it for you, what does? Do you have a way to offset your living costs in the future? Do you have a hobby that you love to do that you could build a life around? Whatever you do, build a happy future that feeds you mind and body. You can always change your strategy, but it’s good to start thinking about it early.

Keep calm and homestead on!

-Mike

Retirement Plan & Forever Lists

As part of a FIRE retirement plan, you need to have an idea of total cost. As a minimal apartment dweller, I don’t have all of the things I’ll need for my retirement. While I may not have these items yet, I’ve compiled some starter ‘forever’ lists of what I think I’ll need to meet my needs for my entire life. My retirement plan is comprised of 3 main pieces:

  • A Canadian homestead
  • A Canada-based adventure van
  • A foreign property in a warm climate to hide from winter

I haven’t fleshed out my plan for more foreign property yet, but I have started to think about needs for my adventure van and homestead. A lot of the items listed cross over between the two, so I’ll have a shared, homestead, and van list. Let’s get into it!

Shared Items

  • First Aid Kit – Safety First, folks! [PURCHASED] [Needs Upkeep]
  • Fishing Rods – Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime. [PURCHASED]
  • ChopsticksThe only utensil you’ll ever need! [PURCHASED]
  • French Press – Always keep good coffee on-hand. [PURCHASED]
  • Hand Coffee Grinder – Don’t waste power grinding coffee. [NEED]
  • Cookware, Silverware, Tableware – Stainless steel will last forever. [PURCHASED]
  • Mattress – Good mattress = Good sleep. Good sleep = Longer Life. [PURCHASED]
  • Fire Extinguisher – Safety First! [NEED] [Needs Upkeep]
  • Butane Stove – Portable stove for indoor, road, and outdoor use. [NEED]
  • Carbon Monoxide Detector – Safety First! [NEED]
  • Smoke Detector – Safety First! [NEED]
  • Water Jug and Pump – Depending on water use, this may not suffice. TBD. [NEED]
  • Wire Rack – For campfire cooking at home and abroad. Incredible [NEED]

Adventure Van Items

  • Dash Cam – Gather video, and cover your ass. [NEED]
  • Car Toolkit – Carjack, Jumper Cables, Pump. [NEED]
  • WiFi Extender – Use wifi from outside a store..keep a lower profile. [NEED]
  • Sleeping Bag – A warm weather sleeping bag that works into fall. [PURCHASED]

Homestead Items

  • General Toolkit – Screwdrivers, Socket Set, etc. [PURCHASED]
  • Canning Pot + Jars – Preserve the fruits of your labour. Literally. [NEED]
  • Hunting Rifle – Hunting offers a great opportunity for food and experience. [NEED]
  • Tiller – Cut time and expand your garden operation. [NEED]
  • Fruit Trees – Start these as early as possible. Pears, Apples, Peaches, etc. [NEED]

What do you have on your forever lists?

-Mike

Food Budget: Reimagined

Up until recently, I was trying to reduce my grocery bill as much as possible. Tweaking what I was buying, when I was buying it, and how much I was buying to tweak every cent. I realized that I was missing the mark a little bit and here’s why.

I was dedicating a fair amount of money to eating out. Eating out with friends is a social thing that I really enjoy, but I was definitely due for a restructuring of how I eat out with friends. Previously I’d spend a certain amount a month, eating at wherever I felt like. When this money ran out, I’d randomly crave sushi, Korean BBQ, and Japanese Ramen. Darn, I’m out of funds..I guess I’ll wait until next month.

The way I approach this now, is I make my social meals target things that I can’t make at home. I’ve reduced my eating out budget, and increased the enjoyment I get from it. The money I saved has been put into my food budget for greater flexibility. This flexibility has increased my recipe repertoire, allowed me to purchase bulk items on sale, and nickel and dime myself less when shopping.

Having more monthly spending for groceries also means I can have friends over for dinner more often, and share a homemade meal that always leaves other full and impressed. I’ve fulfilled my social needs, my love for cooking, my thirst for a better budget, and I’ve paid away less of my money in tips. Servers play an important role, but tipping has changed a lot in the last 30 years to make up for stagnating wages. Don’t get me wrong, I always leave a good tip and so should you. Now I just do it less often.

Think about the way your life works and align your budget to it; it will make you happier!

-Mike

Home Brewing

Anyone who has spent an evening out in Toronto, or almost anywhere in North America, Western Europe, and Australia, knows that alcohol is expensive. Specifically in Canada, we pay a lot of tax on our alcohol and it’s an expense I don’t want to have. I rarely have a drink with dinner, and try to keep it down to a couple pints when I go out, but usually I don’t restrict myself at home or before the bar (save that money!).

The cheapest beer you can purchase in Ontario is about $1.85 for a 473ml can of Laker and the average craft beer goes for about $2.75. Cider rings in around $3.00, wine as low as $1.50 a glass for table wine, and liquor around $1.10 for an fluid ounce. Although this doesn’t seem that bad, having a friend over for a couple beers and you’re out $10. Home brewing is the solution.

I regularly brew a VERY simple but delicious cider from, yes, Allen’s Apple Juice. You can usually score it on sale for $0.75-$1 per litre from one store or another and I brew about 20L at a time. Additional requirements are yeast (any Champagne or Cider yeast) at about $2 and added sugar at $2 for a half a kilo.

By The Numbers

Total Cost: $24

Result: 20L of 7%+ Cider

Yielding: 40 x 500ml Bottles at 60cents each

Now, this doesn’t include the startup equipment, sanitizer and bottles, which I amassed over time, but it gives you a good idea of how cheap you can brew an excellent beverage. Seriously, this stuff is fantastic and packs a punch. For $10, you can throw a party for 4 or you and your pal would come in at less than $2.50.

Brewing beer is a similar cost structure, wine is a little bit more, and making your own hard liquor is illegal (but hillbillies do it, so it couldn’t be that card).

Brewing is an art. It’s a combination of cooking, science, and baking all wrapped into one. If you enjoy a challenge, enjoy fermented beverages, brewing is DEFINITELY for you.

-Mike