Chopsticks: The Best Utensil

To preface this, I didn’t grow up using chopsticks. I learned how to use them so that I could eat sushi and Korean BBQ. Also, I still don’t hold them properly. What I can say though, is they are the most versatile utensil out there.

With a pair of chopsticks, I can cook and eat a dish of just about anything. When I’m done cooking, a simple rinse and wipe of each stick results in clean chopsticks ready to eat the final product. Typically, one requires cooking tools (flipper, spoons, whatever) to prepare the dish, a fork to eat it, and perhaps a spoon too. Chopsticks seem to accomplish it all.

Imagine if instead of having a cutlery drawer, with an organizer, and 8 sets of 2 spoons, 2 forks, and a knife; you just had 8 pairs of chopsticks. As someone looking to reduce stuff in the junk drawer, this is a great way to eliminate about 40 pieces of silverware I seldom use.

If you’re fortunate enough to have not loaded up your kitchen yet, or haven’t purchased anything at all, get a good knife and a pair of chopsticks and see how you make out!

-Mike

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

Blogging Inspiration

Although my blog is very new, it’s something I’ve been planning on for a while. I read a lot of blogs and learn so much from bloggers that I wanted to pass on things I’ve learned. I’m big on self improvement and bettering myself, and have found techniques that anyone can use.

My biggest inspiration has to be Jacob at http://earlyretirementextreme.com/. Jacob’s no-nonsense, logical approach to cutting costs and life optimization is excellent. He’s a much better writer than myself, and has a better handle on solving complex problems. Hopefully, I can reach his level someday.

I read his blog daily, and finally ordered his book. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and absorb as much as I can. Everyone has a source of inspiration; what’s yours?

-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

Exercise – Weight Management

In my previous post, I told you I wasn’t going to tell you how you should exercise. This is more of a strategy to prepare yourself for success. The following are some tips I would recommend considering if you’re looking to keep things tighter in the weight department.

  • Find your weight. Consult your doctor to what your weight range is for your height and gender. If you’re over the amount, set your goal to the maximum weight as your primary goal. If you’re under, start with the minimum. Hit your first goal and reassess from there.
  • Stop gaining. I don’t have any experience in being under weight, so I won’t talk to that. If you’re increasing in weight above your recommended, get on a diet. Count your calories and reduce your daily intake a little week over week. Eventually, you’ll start losing weight. Great, you’re in a caloric deficit. I do this to shrink my stomach a little bit, it will hopefully stop you from getting intensely hungry once workouts enter the mix. This is my least favourite part by far.
  • Exercise. Whatever you choose to do, get active, burn some calories and work your muscles. Eventually, you’ll lose fat, gain muscle, and the metabolism boost will help keep you losing and gaining. When you get down to a comfortable weight, you should increase your food intake to start maintaining. This will require constant tweaking, but your body tells you what it wants.
  • Raw materials. Buy the raw materials that make up dishes you love, you’ll learn how to cook food better than store bought and ditch the junk. Better quality protein, fibre, and more can be found in the vegetable garden.

Do as much of the above as possible, and get yourself to the best level of you. If you want to get more muscular, go ahead, but it’ll take upkeep and more food. If you want to get leaner, throw in a cardio exercise. Most importantly; have fun with this adventure. It’s a life experience and does so much for your mental well being.

-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

Travel Smart – Weigh Your Things

When I begin packing for a trip, these are some of the things I consider when choosing the contents of my backpack:

  • Weather for the time I’m there (temperature and possible adverse conditions)
  • Different activities I may want to partake in
  • Will I need clothing to enjoy the nightlife
  • Am I doing any business there?
  • Transport methods I plan to use

There are a lot of factors, but one of the most important ones for me is weight. Sometimes when you pack a bag, you try to fill it to ensure you have everything you could possibly need to meet all of the above scenarios.

Before you know it, your bag is 20kg and you have to hike 5km to your hostel from the main transit hub. You’re going to be sore, tired, and possibly injured by the time you make it there. Do yourself a favour and weigh your bag before you leave. Look at all of the things you’re bringing, and see if there is any easy weight you can drop.

A 25 gram keychain, a 125 gram portable speaker, a 350 gram book may not seem like a lot but leaving them at home will save you from carrying around a half of a kilogram. Leave out a couple t-shirts, your 3rd pair of shoes, and bring a smaller camera and you’ve saved 3kg. Reducing weight will make you more agile, and leave you in better shape to go further on your travels.

Personally, I like to use a food scale to check the weight of all of my items to see a better breakdown of what the total weight of my bag is made up of. Most of the weight so from clothing, so ditching a heavy pair of jeans and a sweater for some layers and chinos is an easy way to have more outfits with less weight.

Protip: Bring one beat up shirt with you that you can leave behind if you need some extra room on the way home. This also comes in handy if you’re going on a hike/need to get dirty.

-Mike