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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Emergency Preparedness

I haven’t been able to bring myself to adopt a ‘prepper’ lifestyle, but recently with the large number of natural disasters it made me think about how well prepared I would be for one. I’m definitely failing that class. It’s not a huge concern for me, but thinking forward I’d like to be prepared in the future.

Living off the power grid sets you up for success in the event of a disaster. Having your own power source that doesn’t comes from the lines is crucial. Having multiple heat sources in a cold country is hugely important. Fresh water is another hugely important factor.

I haven’t gotten too detailed into my plan, but I will without a doubt recommend the following:

Two or more sources of clean water

  • 365 Gallons of drinkable water
  • Water purification tablets
  • Water Distiller

Food

  • A good stock of perishable foods (say 1 month?)
  • Optional stock of Meals Ready to Eat (MRES). Costco sells a year worth, it’s expensive but it would be a game changer
  • Ways to grow your own food (I think without an emergency this is important)
  • A weapon and ammunition. You may not want to hunt, but it might save your life. Ammunition is tradable in the event currency isn’t of much value

Heating

  • Wood Stove and a winter’s worth of wood
  • Propane heating and a large tank/bunch of tanks

I don’t have a hazmat suit on my shopping list yet, but it’s always worth keeping an open mind. All of the above things you can use day to day anyways, just keep more of it than what would be considered average.

-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

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

 

FIRE: Where is the excitement?!

Okay, so I’m going to humble myself really quick. I don’t know shit about Financial Independence/Early Retirement. I’m new to the idea, and I haven’t even gotten close yet. There is so much passion coming from the people involved in this idea, they study every aspect of how to make the dream the reality. These people are the sensei to my samurai; seriously. These people love the journey and the result.

However, maybe I just don’t see the raw excitement coming from some when they reach financial independence. I guess it’s sort of like winning a race; you’ve reach the end, you feel good but you’re gearing up for the next one. I really hope when I reach FI that I can showcase my passions and really share the experience with anyone who will listen. FI is when you earn true freedom and you really get to own every minute of your life. Yell about it! Tell everyone! Say everything!

I know a lot of the publications I read are tailored to their viewer, but I’d love to hear about how amazing the end result is! Listen to a podcast that makes me want to pickup my keyboard, throw it across the room and go buy motorbike and drive across south america. Maybe finance isn’t emotionally exciting, but it could be, you know?

Maybe I’m just being a dick and ranting. Maybe I’m showing my thrill seeking behaviour. Whatever. Hopefully I can bring some fire to FIRE.

Stay tuned for more heat.

-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