Travel Canada in a Camper

Quick Rant: I talk a lot about alternate lifestyles. Some of these lifestyles may seem strange but in the year 2017, a lot seems strange. With climate change, dwindling resources, and uncertain political climates, we need some drastic changes in the world to help get back on track and survive as a species. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it doesn’t seem too farfetched does it?

Not too long ago I discovered /r/vandwelling while being SUPER productive one day. Despite not spending my time usefully that day, I really discovered something I’d like to do. With a homestead as a frugal home base and a warm weather getaway property, living costs might cut into my travel budget. Enter an adventure van.

North America is a massive place, and I’ll certainly never see ALL of it. A van will help me get around to a lot of it, and do so on a budget. Never needing accommodation, having a place to cook, and keeping the amenities of home; these are all advantages of an adventure van.

There may come a day when I don’t need the van anymore, so I can pass it onto the next. The value from retrofitting a $5000/$6000 van will pay itself off in no time! RVs are hugely expensive and guzzle gas; I’m looking for a smaller platform. If I fall in-love with living in a van, I could always upgrade as well. An adventure van seems like a great way to test the waters of a different lifestyle. Check out the stories available on the web, instagram, reddit, and more. If van life isn’t for you, it’s certainly an interesting look into a different type of life.

I’ll continue to write about different lifestyles, with the hopes of people looking at alternatives. You never know how you might find happiness, try something new!

-Mike

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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

 

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

The Economy of You

An economy is essentially a byproduct of monetary transactions. Money comes in, money is spent on services. Money is lent, money is spent, money is paid back with interest. These are the fundamental parts of the system.

Investing relies on the economy and we hope the economy grows in a healthy way. However, every investor should be prepared to weather a storm. Unfortunately, due to extreme amounts of lending and not paying back these loans in the western world, things are getting pretty scary out there. Is a crash imminent? I can’t say. What I can tell you is, by keeping your personal economy strong you can be prepared for this.

Lately, I’ve cut spending on items that don’t produce value. I’m spending more on investments, saving more liquid cash, and seeking novel ways to grow my money. If everyone were to do this, the economy would slow. The few FIRE minded people out there can benefit if they jump on this opportunity while the economy is strong; your money will go further when it’s not.

It may sound like I’m not enjoying the fruits of my labour, but I am:

  • Getting more enjoyment out of the things that I have
  • Finding joy and new experiences in starting businesses
  • Focusing on internal growth. (Go to your local library and get a book. Do it now!)

I really enjoy seeing my net worth increase and learning, so this is easy work for me. If it’s not your cup of tea, I hope you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and can grow your own way.

Look at your personal economy and see how you can make it stronger, more robust, and be prepared to weather any storm. When the downpour starts, you’ll be happy knowing you came prepared and can hit it full on.

-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

My Early Retirement Ecosystem

I’ve thought a lot about the symbiosis of so many of my alternative living strategies, and figured I would try and talk about the ecosystem and how it all works. Some of the main strategies that compliment each other:

  • Early Retirement
  • Bring Frugal
  • Minimalism
  • Healthy Eating
  • Reduced Meat Diet
  • Zero Waste
  • DIY

My main goal is early retirement, and I will do anything to get there. One of the biggest boosts you’ll get towards financial freedom is becoming frugal. Spending less means saving more; plain and simple. Once the frugal addiction hits, you’ll enjoy finding out how much junk you used to buy, and then not buying it. Literally not spending money makes me happy! Cool, right? Being frugal to me is about not spending money on the things you don’t want to spend money on. That being said..

I personally don’t need a lot of space. I’ve slowly reduce the amount of stuff I physically have and am looking to reduce the space I need. I started my adult life in a large condo with all the trimmings. Recently, I then into an apartment to reduce my rent and expenditures. Next, I will be moving into a room in a shared house. My next move will reduce my costs significantly (almost 40% for housing). I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t have anything else I need to rid myself of. I have become MY version of minimal.

I really enjoy food and cooking but I don’t think anyone enjoys paying their grocery bill. The thing I quickly learned about myself after moving out on my own is how much I enjoy cooking. I started off simple with a couple recipes and now I have a good sized repertoire. One of things about cooking that has improved my food and my diet immensely is moving to raw materials. Raw materials are cheaper, result in better tasting food, and reduce all of the ‘junk’ that processed foods contain.

In Canada, food is fairly expensive and meat and cheese are very expensive. As a result, I have moved to a mainly meat free diet. When I do eat meat, I put more work into cheaper cuts and have been very impressed by the results. This saves me money, expands my skills, and has me eating more environmentally friendly dishes. When I go shopping for produce, I bring refillable bags and NEVER buy plastic bags at the checkout.

A zero waste lifestyle is directly related to being frugal, eating healthy, being more environmentally friendly, and eating less meat. Meat comes in foam trays, if I buy meat, I reuse the trays at least once to make them more than single use, for example. I buy only seasonal produce and put it in reusable mesh bags.

Before I buy anything, I always ask myself: Can I get by without it? Can make it myself? I have become extremely self sufficient and, if I don’t say so myself, quite handy. I walk to work/my friends/the train/the store. I carry all of my groceries in a backpack. When organizing work events, I pickup the food and alcohol myself. I repair my own things. I hunt down deals and buy used when I do need things. I learn new skills. This is a huge requirement if you want more freedom. Stop paying people to do things you can do yourself!

This was a bit of a rant, but look at ways your different passions compliment each other, and find new ways to enhance your lifestyle.

-Mike

 

 

Technology to Support Simple Living

I frequently browser /r/simpleliving and I think a lot of times people miss the point. There is this idea that you have to drop everything and revert to the stone age in order to live a simpler life. I truly think that doing so is a step in the wrong direction.

Many modern technologies give you the tools to make your life simpler. Here are spme examples:

A Library Card: Get a library card and borrow books instead of buying them. Borrow eBooks and load them onto an eReader. Borrow DVDs instead of buying them or pirating. Use library internet instead of paying for a connection at home. Your taxes pay for this so take advantage.

The Internet: Manage your finances using online spreadsheets like Google Docs; don’t bother buying a business suite. Do you banking online, why bother trudging to a bank to move money around. Use the internet as a research tool to learn more rather than enrolling in a course. All of these things and so much more are available for free at your leisure.

A laptop: Don’t buy a TV, watch things on your laptop. Modern laptops are nearly as good as a desktop, you probably don’t need a desktop and all of the peripherals that go with it. Get a normal cellphone and use video conferencing on your laptop to keep in touch. A laptop is versatile; don’t buy a million internet enabled devices to feed every perceived need.

A Smartphone: Maybe you don’t need a full sized computer (I do) and a large screen smartphone will feed your need. Use apps to help rather than distract. Keep your apps limited to what is necessary; don’t download everything on the market. Social media apps are typically bad. I keep messenger and snapchat to keep in touch with people, nothing more. Additionally, don’t buy a top of the line phone; get a robust off brand model to save your hard earned dollars. A smartphone with a good camera is also a benefit, you won’t need another camera and you can collect pictures instead of things.

Apps: Tinyscanner is a great replacement for a scanner. I use Trello to keep notes (and I can access it from anywhere). Google Maps so you don’t need a physical map everywhere you go. Carrot Rewards as a step counter with free Aeroplan rewards to boot! As I said before, don’t download what you do-not-need.

IOT Devices: Find Internet of Things devices to help you reduce your impact. The only one I would use would be a smart thermostat to help reduce my power bill. Find things that fit your needs and don’t go overboard.

Things you probably don’t need: A smartwatch, A TV, Multiple Computers

See how technology can HELP you with what you need, rather than adding more to your life. Buy used tech if you need something for a short time. A used eReader is half-price and is much more expendable as a result.

Keep it simple, smartie.

-Mike