Exercise – Cycling

Recently at work I was assigned to a new account that requires me to work on-site at the client’s headquarters. Unfortunately, this happens to be twice as far from my place as my home office. Frugal me was angry; now I’m going to have to pay for this? I’m not a fan of city transit, why pay for something you don’t like? Well, I could always ride a bike there.

Now I ride my bike to work daily. It’s only been a couple weeks now, but I can feel a difference in my legs and my energy levels. Biking to work isn’t so bad after all. I was fortunate enough to inherit my bike from my father’s friend, who recently left the country for retirement. I had a helmet from childhood; this will need replacing soon. I was also gifted a lock, a rear light, and a front light from my father. It never hurts to see what your family has kicking around before you go out and buy something. Thanks, Dad!

I did have to buy one thing to improve my bike’s security. I picked up a pair of Rockbros Antitheft Skewers to prevent my wheels from ‘walking away’. They were super easy to install with the provided tool and they feel very robust. Worst case scenario, I have to pack my seat when I park my bike at my home office, but otherwise, everything else detaches or is locked together.

The City of Toronto also offers some great resources to cyclists. You should check them out!

Be safe, secure, and pedal hard. These are the keys to a happy commute.

-Mike

Travel Smart – Compression Bags

Compression bags are a total game changer for the frequent business traveller and backpacker. I’ve had the same pair of compression bags for the last 3 years, and they have saved me at least a dozen times. Why are they so useful you ask?

  • Dirty and wet clothes can be sealed in these bags, preventing them from smelling up your entire backpack. I can guarantee that compression bags will delay your need for laundry for at least 3-5 days; a godsend on the road.
  • Compressing your clothes before a trip make getting on your first flight painless, as your bag will appear smaller.
  • Compression bags offer a nice method to divide up your clothing for a trip.
  • Compressing clothes around fragile cargo keeps everything nice and tight. This is useful for bringing your new found treasures home.
  • Compression bags are, well, bags! If your bag is overflowing, you can toss some things in these bags to drag around with you until you can lighten things up.

The only bad experiences I’ve had with compression bags are as follows: Having one come open during transit and smelling up my wardrobe. Bad timing as I needed clothing for a night out. The other, is actually allowing me to pack too much stuff. I filled my bag so heavy that it would have been uncomfortable to carry for almost a month. I ended up reducing the amount of clothes I had by opting out of the bags on the way to my destination. I used them during the trip and on the way home though!

Reminder: Pack light. Your spine will thank you!

-Mike

Explore Your Local Grocery Stores

Okay, so as much I love being environmentally friendly and supporting local business, I also have to look out for myself once and a while. One of the ways I do this is via my grocery shopping. I generally shop at No Frills and Food Basics to meet my budgetary needs. No Frills is the spot when there is bonus PC points to be earned. Food Basics is closer and has a better selection of international food so I typically go there. Chinatown is of course my stop for produce.

It’s not all about the savings and points, however. I find my No Frills offers an excellent selection of asian cuisine, but lacks frozen whole foods (fish fillets, shrimp, more). No Frills, for whatever reason, carries carrots in 3 formats (individual, bagged chilled, bagged shelf..Why? Give me Canadian carrots I can bag myself). Food Basics has excellent food from the further edges of Europe, along with amazing bulkier sales. A lot of the domestic brands have much to be desired though, and I’m not a big fan of their house brands.

It’s worth while to investigate all of your local grocery stores, and see who offers what. I’m going to checkout the metro nearby my house next week as a potential butcher, should I have guests over and want to make something more unique. If you put in a little extra legwork and shop flyers, you’ll save a lot of money over your lifetime.

To me, saving money and preventing food waste is worth it.

-Mike

Budget Optimization

There are a million and one talking points on budget optimization, but I found a metric that works really well for me. When you’re travelling, you often look at what day-to-day costs are for your trip, because it is typically measured in days. When you live somewhere, you usually look at it in months, because that’s how bills are paid.

I’m challenging you to look at what your current life costs you per day, it should give you a unique perspective. Until recently, living in Toronto costs me about $48/day. I think that’s pretty high, so I found ways to get that down to $45, and hopefully I’ll have it below $40 in the next 6 months by moving.

Look at all of your required expenses, and determine if you can reduce or eliminate any of them WITHOUT giving up anything you love. Myself, I dropped a couple domain names I haven’t used in over a year, got rid of my gym membership, reduced my meat and cheese consumption, and stopped buying lotto tickets. This got me to my goal. $3/day seems trivial, but that’s over $1000/year!

Try slimming down, you’ll feel better!

-Mike

Rewards Credit Card: Get One!

Everyone runs their budget differently. Some people use a cash-only strategy, some use a mix of cash/credit/debit, others use only debit, etc. All of these are excellent choices, but if you have the will power and don’t mind crunching the numbers every month, putting all your spending on a rewards credit card is the way to go.

When you spend cash at a business, unless they offer a cash discount, you’re paying full price with no rewards. Maybe they offer a points program, so you’re paying full price with some reward. If you pay with a rewards card, you double down on the rewards!

Whatever your choice of reward, don’t spend money just to gain rewards; that’s backwards. Anything you NEED to purchase, should be done on your card. Free is free. These cards often come with other perks as well. Travel cards come with travel insurance, lounge access, companion tickets, and more.

Currently, I have a Cashback card that I only use at No Frills (they don’t accept visa). I also have an Amazon Visa, which I use for daily spending and while travelling. I am in the market for a new travel rewards card for daily spending after dropping my Amex Gold.

If, like me, you’re looking for a new card, check out the following card aggregators:

Both of those sites are perfect for picking a card that gives you the most free stuff! Don’t be scared of yearly fees, as long as the benefit for you is there, and you will come out ahead.

-Mike

Travel Smart – One Bagging

In 2013, I took my first trip to Europe and it changed my life. I fell in love with travel of all forms and I haven’t stopped since. During my sedentary days, I spend a lot of time researching travel and hunting for my next great adventure.  My favourite podcast has to be the https://indietravelpodcast.com/ .

From the indie travel podcast, I heard all of the benefits of travelling with a single bag and I have followed through ever since. Currently, I am using a Venturesafe 45L GII and I absolutely love it.

I can use my backpack to haul groceries, as a weekender and, of course, as the best travel pack money can buy. The security features alone are worth the money. You can’t put a price on piece of mind. Seriously, if you’re going to spend money on something, spend it on your mental well being.

You’ll end up washing clothes more often, but travelling with less is amazing. Less things to lose, less stuff to lug around a country, and you always have hands free. The money you save on checked bags will pay off your backpack in no time. Create a list of what you need, now look at that list again and be truthful, you probably don’t need all of it. I’ve travelled for 3 weeks with my bag, and managed easily. I’m leaving for a month at the end of the year, and have no doubt it will work just as well.

If you want to learn more, from more qualified people, my friends at /r/onebagging are a great resource to learn more.

-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