Commuting: Take back your time

Commuting is probably the biggest time-suck in the modern person’s life. Currently, I can work remotely a day or 2 a week, but otherwise need to be in my office or my client’s office. When I was using the GO train to commute into Toronto everyday, I was losing about thirty, 24-hour days a year. I was throwing away a month per year (and this is all awake time, so really it’s about 33% more)!

Each day it would take 1 hour and 20 minutes on the train, and another 40 minutes walking to/from the office from Union station and getting to the station from my house. 2 hours each way, 5 days a week, 48 working weeks a year. 1200 hours a year on a train.

I have since moved closer to work. Now I walk an hour a day, during that hour I can listen to music and explore the city, something you can’t do while seated in a train for hours (after being seated in the office for hours).

What is your time worth? My freelance rate is about $100/hr, so commuting was costing me about $120,000 a year not including the cost of tickets. I’m not going to spend that much time freelancing, but you get the gist of how valuable your time is. Please, move closer to work. You’ll get time back in your day to do the things you want to do.

If you must commute, find ways to do less desirable tasks while travelling, catch up on reading, and use that time as effectively as you possibly can.

Take back your time.

-Mike

Documentary: Without Bound

One way you could describe early retirement is that it is an alternate lifestyle. That is, a lifestyle different from what is normal. Vandwelling is another alternative lifestyle. It is a fascinating, unique, and beautiful lifestyle in my opinion and if you haven’t heard of it, I urge you to look it up.

Whether you’ve heard of van dwelling, vannin’, overlanding, van living or not, you should give this documentary a watch. I won’t go into much detail, other than what you’re about to see is an incredible example of human nature, living life, and freedom. Enjoy!

-Mike

What Early Retirement Means to Me

I’m not entirely sure how I came to the path towards early retirement. I still don’t have an entirely clear picture of what the end looks like, but I’m slowly evolving my idea of ER. What I do know is, the things I have learned along my travels have changed the way I’ll look at life forever.

Some things I have learned:

  • Don’t over eat. Why eat more than you should and have to work it off later? You pay money for food, and then you pay money for a personal trainer to burn it off. You’re paying for your lunch twice. When it comes to what you’re eating; eat what you want and the healthier the better. Don’t waste time eating junk filler, get the good stuff (ideally, make it) and enjoy it!
  • Exercise. I’m not going to advise you on what you should do, but find a physical activity that you enjoy. Being active will help you live longer, and healthier! The healthier you are, the less you’ll spend on healthcare and the more money you’ll have in your pocket. Invest now and get your health dividend.
  • Don’t buy your way into lifestyle bloat. Buy a good pot and pan that will last your entire life; you don’t need 5 of each. You actually may have the need for another pan, but live with one until you NEED another. I once bought 40 shot glasses (yeah, really. Yikes.) to serve a tray of 40 tequila shots at a party; now I have too many shot glasses. Do you need what you’re buying?
  • Fill your home with things that mean a lot to you. I like to bring souvenirs home from my travels, however, I make a point not to buy junk. Copper Bosnian coffee set? Good choice. Looks great in the kitchen and makes great coffee. Shipping a rug across the Atlantic from Morocco? Kidding, I’ve been reformed after the tequila incident. I keep skateboard on my wall as art. If I break a board and need one in a pinch; I’m covered and have a rotating cast of wall art.
  • Get Creative. Please don’t buy plastic water bottles. Buy a water bottle for during the day use. I keep flip top glass bottles in my fridge to have ice cold water while at home. I like not sweating during the summer, but cool a whole house is ridiculous. Cooling my bedroom with a small air condition, gets a single room cold in about 10 minutes. Make yourself a clothesline and ditch the dryer when the weather is good.
  • Key tabs on your money. Make a budget. Setup automatic deposits. Buy index funds when you’re carrying too high a balance in your chequing account. Whatever you do, get an investment and saving strategy. Scrutinize your strategy, and constantly evolve it to improve your situation. $ave dat money.

Retiring early, to me, means being more conscious of your spending, more conscious of your earning, and having a clear idea of why you’re saving. Get a raise, save the increase. One day you have the ability to do stop working, you don’t have to, but you can chase another dream if you wish. Freedom is the goal.

-Mike

Bulk Buying vs Minimal Inventory

A lot of people like to buy in bulk when things are on sale. I’m not entirely onboard with that idea in most cases. After buying my initial base inventory (see previous post) after moving I try to not exceed $100 a month for groceries. This makes bulk buying tricky.

I want to keep as much of my money in investments at all time, not held up in 300 bars of soap. Sales are usually cyclical, and certain things go on sale every 3 months or so. Chances are you can get any food item on sale, so I wouldn’t bulk buy food. Certain things I’ll buy in a larger format, on sale. These items include:

  • Toilet Paper – it never goes bad, and you never want to run out
  • Dental Floss – buy as many yard pack as you can
  • Beer – as much as I dislike the beer store, this keeps my bar bill down

Other than that, I think if you buy as little as possible, more money stays in your pocket. This kind of scrutiny of deals also helps you be a more informed shopper when you start looking at dollar per ml/g/oz of different items to ensure a deal really is a deal.

I find not having bulk, your daily items are replenished more frequently, keeping them fresher. I like fresh and I like money. This buying strategy is easier as a single person, followed by couples, but there are cost advantages for families as well.

-Mike

Eliminating Legacy

Legacy

  1. denoting software or hardware that has been superseded but is difficult to replace because of its wide use.
  2. an amount of money or property left to someone in a will.

Today the universe aligned, and both definitions of legacy entered my life. Normally, they would have passed me by but because I was listening to the Aussie Firebug podcast with the Mad Fientist thinking about FI, I had two realizations.

The first realization was code related. I was building an interpreter to compile a legacy templating language into JavaScript and was failing horribly. I was thinking to myself:

” Why the hell are we supporting this? This is literally 15 versions and 3 years behind, the language itself is super outdated, and our new build system doesn’t support it…wait, wait a minute. The new application will be using React so we can convert these to JavaScript once and wait until they are rebuilt in the new format. Problem solved, the better way.”

When it comes to being minimalist, optimizing your finances, and working towards financial independence; eliminate your legacy baggage. Sell off equipment for old hobbies, sell or give away unused furniture, and collapse investment funds into better funds. Myself, I’m migrating my HISA to EQ Bank to get a better return on my emergency fund. It will lower my TFSA limit for the year, but it will bounce back next year. Additionally, I’ll be getting a new credit card to get better rewards return on my spending. I eliminated legacy to move closer to my goal.

Finally, for the other meaning of legacy, why does someone leave a legacy? The only legacy I’m concerned with leaving is a positive impact on the world. Maybe I’m simple like that, but I think leaving things better than when you started is one of the most valuable things you can do in your life. Don’t get me wrong, if I have children and have money left over, I won’t be upset about it. If I hedge and invest well, and work hard, I don’t mind if I’m net $0 when the end comes. Financial Independence is an asset that provides freedom.

-Mike

Environmentally Friendly

There is a huge push globally to be more environmentally friendly. Huge gains are being made, and it’s amazing to watch. However, as western consumers I think we’re missing the mark. We’re buying things with more and more packaging everyday. Buying more throw away items. Cheap junk from the dollar store. This isn’t sustainable, and worse, we’re paying for it! You pay for the packaging and the junk inside it.

The best ways to save the environment are to reduce, reuse, recycle. Let’s break it down.

  • Reduce: Stop buying junk. You don’t need a cardboard scarecrow for your front window during the fall season. Make a real scarecrow from materials you have.  You can get free hay to stuff it from your local grocery store. It will last you longer than the piece of cardboard, that will probably get bent and creased after one season.
  • Reuse: Jars, bottles, takeout trays. All of this stuff is looked at as a single use item that a product comes in. These are all good vessels for holding food (they were made to hold food), holding odds and ends, small items. Reuse these items once, and you’ll have been 100% more environmentally friendly than usual. Use it even more, and you’ll be part of the change the world needs.
  • Recycle: Okay, you can’t use everything over again. You had to get something from amazon urgently, it comes with air bags inside to protect your purchase. Pop them, and recycle it as instructed. Save the box though, you never know when you’ll need one.

The less you buy, the better you are for the environment. Raw products use less energy to create than refined products. Buy more raw materials. Energy costs money.

Also, if some of the energy has been paid for already, you’ll pay less of the cost. I’m talking about buying used. Getting a used end table, toolbox, or whatever. Someone has paid for the initial cost of the energy. You pay again, but less thanks to the person who bought something they didn’t need.

Think about how much energy something has needed. How much work has gone into making that product versus the cost you paid for it? Lower energy cost items are cheaper. Put in the energy yourself, and you’ll save money.

– Mike