November 2014 Income and Spending

I thought it would be curious to start posting my income and expenses, on a monthly basis, both as a point of reference for you readers and as a way for me to publicly keep my shit in line…as best I can.

Another month has come and gone. It’s almost hard to believe that I’ve been at my new job for 2 months now, but really, it’s not hard to believe. Time always passes this way. Anyway…

INCOME

Paychecks: $1523.23
Tips: $6.55
Other: $68.02 (This includes some cash from a gig I played, and some cash back rewards from my VISA that’s paid out every November.)
Interest/Dividends: $7.02

Total: $1604.82


 

EXPENSES

Food

Juice for Booze: $19.24 (this is the “Cider Fund” for our delicious Frugal Home Brew!)
Coffee/Snacks: $57.57
Groceries: $150.39
Booze: $190.38
Fast Food/Restaurants: $87.76

Bills

Cell Phone: $45.8
Rent: $345
Tenant Insurance: $7.48
Internet: $31.04

Gifts

$0.90

Transportation

Taxi Rides: $8
Bike Maintenance: $36.73
Public Transit: $5.50
Gas: $15

Home Supplies and Maintenance

Laundry: $12
Entertainment: $11.99
Kitchen/Bathroom supplies: $4.50
Clothing: $0

Miscellaneous

Music Equipment: $5.87
Misc: $3.33
Albums: $30.45

Total: $1063.06


 

INVESTMENTS

Questrade TFSA Deposits: $698.05
Scotiabank TFSA Deposits: $7
Leftover Savings: $0.02

Total: $705.07


There it is, the dirty numbers. It’s nowhere near as exciting at last month, but all and all it’s not so bad.

A red flag for me is the amount I spent on alcohol. It seems like quite a high number but it does involve a few nights of me purchasing drinks for more than just myself. I also have this tug of war inside of me when it comes to alcohol. I’m a believer that moments, memories and time with people you care about, and love, is far more important than the trinkets and thingy-ma-bobs many people seem to love to collect. Alcohol, whether you agree with it or not, can add a very real social, bonding aspect to nights with people you care about. So, spending a little too much for such relaxing, loving, and memorable evenings is something I’ll admit I’m torn between. I mean, I’m not talking about getting black out drunk or anything, but it can be nice to bask in the drinks’ warm glowing warming glow. Know what I mean?

I’m always a little disappointed when my investments don’t work out to be at least 50% of my take home pay. Investing is key to the financial independence game, and the only way to really get there in 10 years or less is to be contributing 60% or more into the accounts. Now, I try not to beat myself up too much – though Mrs. Bastard would disagree – but it really is the most important part of this journey. Having to work to live is not ideal. I want to live, and then work. Multiple decades of working paycheck to paycheck is such a terrifying thought to me. I won’t have it, and I honestly don’t think you should either.

How do my income/expenses compare to yours? Any tips and tricks you care to share?

October 2014 Income and Spending

I thought it would be curious to start posting my income and expenses, on a monthly basis, both as a point of reference for you readers and as a way for me to publicly keep my shit in line…as best I can.

I’m a little late to the game this month. I’m adjusting to my new job and the 44 hours a week that come along with it, huzzah!

October was a freakishly stellar month, for more than one reason.

INCOME

Paychecks: $2373.69
Tips: $25.85
Other: $165.85 (This includes some cash from a gig I played, a Government tax rebate cheque, as well as income I earned online through Clickworker.com.)
Interest/Dividends: $88.31

Total: $2653.70


 

EXPENSES

Food

Juice for Booze: $4.59 (this is the “Cider Fund” for our delicious Frugal Home Brew!)
Coffee/Snacks: $62.45
Groceries: $100.04
Booze: $147.94
Fast Food/Restaurants: $28.23

Bills

Cell Phone: $57.25
Rent: $86.25
Tenant Insurance: $9.35
Internet: $62.09

Gifts

$0

Transportation

Taxi Rides: $7
Bike Maintenance: $5.02
Public Transit: $8.25
Gas: $10.01

Home Supplies and Maintenance

Laundry: $12
Entertainment: $0
Kitchen/Bathroom supplies: $48.39
Clothing: $0

Miscellaneous

Music Equipment: $5.87

Total: $654.73


 

INVESTMENTS

Questrade TFSA Deposits: $1784.15
Scotiabank TFSA Deposits: $7.83


I can’t say I feel bad seeing almost $1800 finding it’s way into my Questrade account. Knowing that the money I’m saving and investing right now will someday, in the not to distant future, produce enough monthly/quarterly dividends to cover all my expenses is starting to feel pretty damn good.

Speaking of expenses, where’s my “rent” payment, right!? Well, turns out the landlord and property management company that runs our building made a tiny boo-boo and to iron everything out they gave us a break on October’s rent. I’ll take it!

Now my “Paychecks” income is so much higher this month because of two reasons.

1. I started a new position in October that comes with both full time hours and a $1.50/hour wage increase. That’s a raise of about 14% for this guy. If a 30 cent raise is a reason to celebrate, you’d be right in assuming that I’m stoked.

2. A couple years ago I worked for a recording studio in Montreal. A beautiful facility. I worked with a lot of awesome people, and even a couple celebrities; ooh la la. The owner, however, was sort of a jerk and never paid me for the hours I put into the place. In the end I did have some proof, via emails and Studio Session Log Books, that proved I was owed for a handful of recording sessions but it took over two years to push it through the Small Claims Court system. It was worth it though, and I’ll bank the $700 and use it to purchase more low cost Index Funds. Plus, people shouldn’t get away with taking advantage of a dedicated employee.

The beginning is always slow, but as I keep chuggin’ away and investing a few hundred bucks a month into investments I start to feel more and more confident. I mean, it’s only been about a year since I started investing small chunks of cash and I’ve already got to the point where I’m earning $30/month from the dividends. That may sound like a small number, but that’s almost enough to cover my monthly phone bill. So, to relate, imagine all your bills written out on a monthly budget and you’re staring at them, going down the list. Now, you get to cross one of those off the list…forever. NEVER again do you think about paying that bill every month. It’s gone, FOREVER. You’re winning.

How do my income/expenses compare to yours? Any tips and tricks you care to share?

Learning to Love Being Wrong, Part 1.

Fear of Being WrongGrowing up I always felt relatively intelligent. My grades from various school tests, reports, projects and exams seemed to justify those feelings. I can remember receiving some praise around the house; the occasional “we’re just so proud of you,” and “keep up the good work”  were thrown around. A funny thing started to happen though. I wasn’t conscious of this change in mindset, of course, but if I take a moment to reflect I think I’m able to trace its beginnings back to a grade 7  science test.

The fear of being wrong, instead of the pursuit of knowledge and learning, began to take hold. Little did I know how powerful, and potentially disastrous, this shift in mindset could be.

I really never found it difficult to excel inside the school system. My memory, when I was a young buck, was reliable. I grasped difficult and tricky topics relatively quickly. I had strong research skills, and was confident with my problem solving abilities. This all came naturally to me, and I very rarely had to do much of any forced studying. I was one of those kids who could power through their homework during the final 5 or 10 minutes of class and be rewarded/reassured the following day when I’d receive my  “100%” mark on the assignment. My report cards would usually have a couple 98%’s, 100%’s, and even a couple 105%’s. Gotta love those bonus questions!

Slowly but surely my attitudes started to change. Again, I didn’t realize this at the time, but I began to pursue this sort of perfection not out of the sheer joy it would bring, nor the knowledge I was banking for future use, but simply because it terrified me to be wrong. To not know; to not do, or be, better than others. Being wrong was not something I wanted myself to experience.

Cue the ol’ “hindsight is 20/20” expression, but if I had only known the power of being wrong. If, instead of giving into  the fear of embarrassment and the fear of judgement, I would have just embraced EVERYTHING as a powerful learning experience, I can’t help but wonder…

It’s obvious at this age, and even more so for the folks that learn to love it earlier in life, that being wrong is sort of beautiful. Sure, it’s likely impossible to totally shut out the voice in your head that may mumble

“you fool, I can’t believe you didn’t know that.”

Or

“I can’t believe YOU… DID…THAT! It was so obviously STUPID. You ARE stupid”

But you can certainly tame it, or acknowledge its’ skewed opinion, and move on.

And here’s the secret, the reward if you will.

This voice, this self deprecating feeling and instinct, always – and I mean ALWAYS – precedes knowledge. It comes before learning something new, something that will compound inside you and will be twisted into a new skill, a new piece of information, a new perspective that will very literally make you smarter, stronger and more confident. This always happens. It just depends how long you allow that voice, that Gatekeeper of learning, to stand in front of you, blocking your way to growth.

I can remember allowing him to guard the entrance for DAYS AT A TIME! I’d lose sleep over it. I’d replay the “mistakes” I had made, the errors, the poor decisions, and I’d worry over it. Man would I worry. Even worse, I’d fear the thought of someone – be it a close friend or total stranger – find me out. Call me out, point out my folly…as if we were in direct competition in EVERY aspect of life, and my mistakes equalled their gain. Ridiculous right? A little crazy even…

This battle of learning to love being wrong can gain so much traction in a life that just now, during the composing of this post, I noticed my heart rate increased and I just happened to get a text from Mrs. Bastard, who’s at work, asking me “What are you doing?” to which I replied “Working on a blog post, but I’m feeling too dumb, exposed and inadequate.” I’ve actually already had to fight off closing the laptop and giving up on this article 3 or 4 times. Feeling that fear  is normal, and is likely a life long battle if it’s ingrained deep enough. In fact I’ve felt the exact same way with each and every post. Yet, when I look back at the few I’ve published since starting the blog I can’t help but feel proud. With every post I’ve learned something new. Be it a writing technique, a new definition, a new understanding of how WordPress is organized and coded, or a grammar/spelling lesson from someone who’s more skilled in the art of the English language.

From here on out I choose to acknowledge this fear, but it will no longer control me. I choose to ask questions when I don’t have an answer, no matter how “obvious” the answer is or how rudimentary and “basic” the skill that’s required to do the job may be, or seem, to others.

“You can’t know what you don’t know” is what I’ve decided to tell myself.

I want to fall back in love with learning, and I want my skill sets to compound over time, bringing me decades of value.

 

Photo Credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/rainbowsqueeze

September 2014 Income and Spending

I thought it would be curious to start posting my income and expenses, on a monthly basis, both as a point of reference for you readers and as a way for me to publicly keep my shit in line…as best I can.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the numbers.

INCOME

Paychecks: $1199.89
Tips: $23.48
Other: $97.35 (This month this includes $75 in Futureshop gift cards I received, and some cash from a bottle return.)
Interest/Dividends: $8.18

Total: $1328.90


 

EXPENSES

Food

Juice for Booze: $0 (this is the “Cider Fund” for our delicious Frugal Home Brew!)
Coffee/Snacks: $17.81
Groceries: $105.74
Booze: $67.97
Fast Food/Restaurants: $0

Bills

Cell Phone: $51.39
Rent: $258.75
Tenant Insurance: $7.48
Internet: $31.04

Gifts

$2.36

Transportation

Taxi Rides: $0
Bike Maintenance: $0
Public Transit: $11
Gas: $0

Home Supplies and Maintenance

Laundry: $12
Entertainment: $155.36
Kitchen/Bathroom supplies: $26.29
Clothing: $30.06

Miscellaneous

$0

Total: $777.25


 

INVESTMENTS

Questrade TFSA Deposits: $534.80
Scotiabank TFSA Deposits: $8.18


Alright, so there it is! Another month has come and gone, money in and money out.

My investment deposits this month are a little disappointing. I aim for a 50% savings rate but have been struggling to reach that amount these past couple months. This will change in October when both my hourly wage and my weekly hours go up! Hurrah for promotions.

Typing remains difficult as I’m still stranded with a cast on my right wrist, so reflecting on the numbers is going to be limited.

You may notice a new category called “Entertainment.” This represents my purchase of a Kobo Arc. I consider this purchase a 50/50 draw between entertainment and investment. I’ve already started reading much more because of it, and after discovering such nifty “Brain Exercising” apps such as “Luminosity,” “Elevate,” and “NeuronNation” it’s actually become  a very positive piece of workout equipment.

My spending on “Booze” is high. I’d like to keep it between $30 and $50 a month, but with some extra friend hang outs this month it caused a few more dollars to be sent in that direction.

An absolute HUGE success this month was the lack of going out to eat! I’m proud of this because it can be such an overwhelming temptation. SELF HIGH FIVE.

Well, that’s it from your friend The Frugster today.

How do my income/expenses compare to yours? Any tips and tricks you care to share?

101 Pounds Later.

Carvey-running-tips-slideThis morning I was greeted with a welcomed surprise, which inspired me to write this impromptu and likely poorly proofread post.

I’ve had weight issues and problems for the majority of my  life. Going all the way back to my early grade school days I always felt as if I was the “fat kid” in the class. I struggled with cravings and overeating in a big way. I can clearly remember going into super ninjaspy mode, sneaking down into the kitchen to make secret sandwiches, sometimes only an hour or two after taking in a full on supper! Sometimes I’d make as many as three sandwiches, and if I was feeling extra ballsy, I’d quietly open one of the cupboards and grab a box of Swiss Cheese or Premium Plus crackers. Off I’d run to the safety of the basement, or my room, where I’d shovel the glory down my gullet while taking in an episode of The Drew Carey Show, Seinfeld, or the Simpsons.

I was so proud of my secret, shameful thievery, thinking my parents would never be able to guess where all those boxes of crackers where disappearing to… I even got caught making these sandwiches many times, but I was always quick with the excuses.

“No!! They’re not for right now, I’m just making my lunch for tomorrow!”

That was definitely my go-to/favourite excuse.

And when I’d creep back into the fridge to grab my “lunch” later that night I would smile, and continue on my way.

Anyway, fast forward many years later and here I am today, and what a great day it is!

Now I don’t weigh myself on a regular basis, it’s sort of like following the Stock Market; watching the daily fluctuations up and down can just drive you crazy! Today, however, I decided to take the plunge and jump onto that square shaped, self-worth measuring machine.

Usually the number on the far left of the digital readout screen is a “2,” and there were times in my life when I would be faced with a “3” staring back at me. But today, for the first time in over a decade, that “2” has morphed itself into a “1.”

My arms flew into the air! “Holy shit!!”, I yelled. 199.5 pounds! I FUCKING DID IT!

If my 22 year old self knew this was coming he’d never believe me.

“Shut up and wash down that Delissio pizza with this strawberry milkshake already!” is what he’d demand.

It’s easy to have the “hindsight is 20/20” moment when you start losing a significant amount of weight. Of course I should have done this years ago. I always knew it was a serious issue affecting both my self esteem and my health.  I’ve been actively pursuing weight loss in a serious way for at least 6 years now, after spending a bit of time living in a van. I wish I would have stuck with it sooner and not fallen off the wagon so often, but that doesn’t matter now. This time is different, and I’m playing for keeps.

If you’re fighting with the weight loss dilemma in your life then just pull the trigger.

DO IT!

NOW!

Seriously. Do it. Once it starts rolling it becomes easy!

You don’t need a gym membership, or a dietitian. You know what food is good and bad for you. It’s common sense. Exercise wise, start with 40 squats and 40 sit ups every day. Go down to Walmart and buy a $40 set of weights and start doing 25 to 50 concentration curls a day. This all takes 5 minutes, and it makes a HUGE difference.

As the motivation grows you’ll extend and expand upon your routine. You’ll start to feel so good that the positive effects can’t help but snowball into a very positive lifestyle change.

No longer do my knees and ankles scream for me to sit down after 5 to 10 minutes of walking. No more does that inner thigh/leg chaffage build up and ruin my outings and adventures. (To my fat friends: I know you understand the horror of the fat walk chafe. Skinny  folk will never, ever understand this sort of discomfort.) My energy and motivation levels are at record highs. My self worth is magnified, and I ooze respect and self confidence now. We all should, we all will, and we’re going to start right now.

GET TO IT!

Your friend,
The Frugster

 

Photo credit: http://weightlossconfidence.com/

Why Your 30 Cent Raise is Reason to Celebrate!

I don't even know what to do with all this CASH!

I don’t even know what to do with all this CASH!

Working for a low wage usually brings about a lot of “woe is me” feelings and concerns from most everyone. Hell, I’ve been one of them! It wasn’t even that long ago when I use to feel that I deserved better and that I was way too smart for my shitty job. Why should I give a shit about this job, especially when the pay made it feel like it was barely worth it? What did my employers expect? That I would “do the shit” out of this job? As far I was concerned I was only here because I had to have some sort of job, I guess.

Well after a decade of continuous low paying wages, and recent paradigm shifts in my own life and how I see the world, I’ve come to the realization that any wage in this absolutely glorious country is a blessing. We’re lucky to be living where we are, and we shouldn’t take it for granted.

Anyway, onto the idea for this post.

Working for minimum wage is something a lot of us Maritimers are use to experiencing. As with the rest of the Western world, a lot of the jobs being created these days are service industry related. With the latest recession we saw a lot of these service jobs either disappear or shrink to part time. Job growth is coming back, but again, mostly part time, service industry jobs. It’s easy to bitch and complain about this short end of the stick. It’s easy to justify that making ends meet with minimum wage is not possible. You may be thinking this very thing as you jump into your financed car and pull on through your local Burger King’s drive-thru on your commute home from your service industry job. Well, it may not be exactly easy, but surviving on minimum wage is completely possible. In fact, if you have things set up properly, you could even RETIRE in less than 15 years while only working for minimum wage.

So, you’re working for that magical $10/hour, when suddenly it dawns on you, “Whoa, dude, I’ve finally stuck around this “Insert Retail/Service Franchise” job for a full year! It’s time to see if I get a yearly raise.” Now most respectable companies, and franchises, will provide their employees with an annual review, accompanied by a raise, which you totally deserve. I’m nearing this exact moment myself and I’m getting pretty jacked up on the fact that I will have gone from $10 to $10.15 to $10.30/hour over these past 6 months.

I’ve talked to a few coworkers about this monument-us occasion – the 30 cent raise – and the reaction is usually the same. A chuckle, a shrug, a roll of the eyes, and a reply similar to “ha, big deal, it’s basically nothing.” I’ll usually smile, half agree, and say something like “yah, I know eh. Seems silly.” But in my mind I’m already doing the math.

How can earning extra money, for doing the exact same job, ever be shrugged off? Now I know inflation will mess with the numbers and the example I’m going to breakdown, but really, let’s just forget about that for the sake of focusing on the positive side(s) of this great gift you’re about to receive. Plus, you’re already saving and investing a huge chunk of your take home pay, right? That savings is literally making you money right now. This will help to tame that pesky inflation thing.

Math time! I’ll take the numbers I mentioned in my “Surviving” post for this example, since this is actually what will be happening in my life.

  • As I mentioned, I generally work between 22 and 27 hours a week, so to keep things simple I’ll take the average and say 25/week.
  • I’ll also pretend I’m going from $10/hour right up to $10.30.

So, at $10/hour it’s easy to see that I make $250/week, before tax. Now, let’s add in that glorious raise. That gets me up to $257.50! I know, I know, it feels like you should be depressed about that number, right? But let’s take a closer look….

That works out to an extra $7.5 a week. Times that by 4 and we get $30/month. Times that by 12 and we get $360/year! Now let’s get the true number. Let’s multiply that by 52 – the number of weeks you’d actually work in a year – and you end up with $390! Three hundred and ninety extra dollars a year! That’s not so horrible, is it? (Plus, we haven’t even factored in working Stat holidays and etc…)

How about we  think about it this way:

Again, you’ll see in my previous article that my rent is $345 a month, and my phone bill is $45.80 a month. So, that 30 cent/hour raise has basically slashed my expenses in a big way. It’s as if I only have to pay my rent and phone bill 11 months of the year now, instead of 12. I already had these bills covered, no problemo, while working at $10/hour, but now with that raise, it’s as if both Bell Mobility and my Landlord came knocking on my door.

“Hey, you Bastard, you know what? You’re such a gloriously reliable – and may I add extremely sexy – customer/tenant that this December your bills are ON US! And, you know, why not, EVERY December from here on out is going to be covered by us as well. That’s just how much we appreciate you.”

Or, similarly, it’s as if my gracious Employer decided to say “Hey, you know what you Bastard, during December were going to give you your paychecks, like we’ve been doing all year, but we’re also going to forward some extra cash to Mr Landlord and Mr Cellphone, on your behalf. When those bills don’t show up in the mail don’t even worry about it! We got ya covered brah”

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that deal any month of the year!

And this is the cycle of avoiding lifestyle inflation. Another year will go by, another review will arise, and another raise will appear on my check. So, 2015 will only have 11 months worth of Rent/Phone bills, and 2016 should only have 10. And so on, so on, so on…

 

photo credit:
http://careergirlnetwork.com/getting-a-raise-when-you-dont-have-a-boss/

August 2014 Income and Spending

Alrighty, so here we are with another month that’s come and gone and it’s time to air out the unmentionables.

FYI: I broke my right wrist this week so I’ll be keeping things short and sweet. And yes, I’m right handed…boo…

Anyway, here are the numbers.

INCOME

Paychecks: $1084.80
Tips: $6.95
Interest/Dividends from investments: $18.71
Other: $56.92 (This includes $40 from a gig with my band, $4 from returned bottles and $12.92 I received from SOCAN as a royalty payment for a tune of mine that is currently being used in a TV show across the pond in the UK.)

Total: $1167.38


EXPENSES

Food

Juice for Booze: $17.97 (this is the “Cider Fund” for our delicious Frugal Home Brew!)
Coffee/Snacks: $37.43
Groceries: $115.89
Booze: $20.42
Fast Food/Restaurants: $56.90

Bills

Cell Phone: $34.35
Rent: $258.75
Tenant Insurance: $5.61
Internet: $23.28

Transportation

Taxi Rides: $24
Public Transit: $8.25

Home Supplies and Maintenance

Kitchen/Bathroom supplies: $11.05
Clothing: $5.25

Miscellaneous

Drivers License Renewal: $84
Gifts: $19.11
Records/Albums: $2.09
Other Misc: $11.13

Total: $ 735.48


INVESTMENTS

Questrade TFSA Deposits: $428.47


So right off the bat you can see that my bills are much more in line with my “normals” compared to July’s numbers. My philosophy of paying my bills weekly is working out swimmingly, and I’d recommend it to anyone who finds paying it all with that one paycheck at the end of the month too stressful and depressing.

I was successful in basically cutting my expenses on booze and restaurants/fast food in half, which is a reason to celebrate!

My overall hours at work were cut back, so my income was on the low side of things this month. That being said, I was still successful in saving and investing $428.47.  A savings rate of about 36 or 37 percent. That amount was transferred directly into my discount brokerage account and was used to buy some more low cost Index Funds.

Well, that’s it from your friend The Frugster today.

How do my income/expenses compare to yours? Any tips and tricks you care to share?

My Life Living in a Van.

mountains

Somewhere in BC in the middle of February. “Vana White” proudly on guard.

As I approach the ripe old age of 30 I find myself reflecting – as I’m sure many people do – on how I spent my late teens and most of my 20’s. I know so much more now about the “real” world. I consider myself to be at least 500% more financially literate, I feel as “up to date” on current events, politics and other nonsensical things as I want to be. I’ve gone through many personal changes in attitude, confidence, and conquering fears. But, you know, I can’t help but think back constantly and analyze the past decade. Most of the time I find myself focusing on what I may feel is “lost time” or perhaps what you’d consider “wasted,” or “misguided” efforts.

You see, I spent many of those years swinging for the proverbial success fence. I was a musician, a song writer, and a band leader/manager. It’s all I ever thought about. I even studied Audio Engineering in college so that I could leverage that knowledge over into my band. I organized tours, designed merch, recorded demos and albums, successfully applied for and received financial backing through grants and industry programs. I rubbed elbows with industry fools while sporting the biggest, fakest smiles and delivery the sturdiest, most confident hand shakes I could muster. In the end, it didn’t succeed, and the band – myself included – burned out and fizzled away. But, after loosing too much sleep due to focusing on the negative sides of failure, it’s time to reflect on this experience in a different way.

Touring this HUGE country is not easy. There’s very few cities to play and vast distances to cover in between them. On top of that, the pay for an unknown hard rock/heavy metal band is basically peanuts. You become, more or less, a travelling clothing store. Your music is your advertisement for your custom designed shirts. It’s a little strange. So many financial odds are against you that it can take a special person to really succeed. In fact, I’m willing to bet that many many young bands fail because the members don’t take the time to understand how frugal you really have to be when chasing this lifestyle. If you are one of the lucky ones to realize this fact, then it automatically forces you to become the frugalest of bastards.

Me and my fellow bandmates effectively lived in our van. For upwards of 6 weeks at a time our 15 passenger tour van is what I called home. I miss those homes…there were two of them. Our first, a beat up old grey van we effectively named “GreyGore.” I can’t even remember the brand. When we upgraded we got lucky and found a relatively unused white Chevy Express, AKA “Vana White.” One of the best tour vans out there. Anyway, it’s occurred to me a few times since the band “retired” that living in a van is what I miss the most about those days. It’s such a strange way to be, so care free, and it really shows you that it is possible to disconnect from the expected Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, lifestyle that’s been served up to us. Let me try and explain.

First, if I had to find a way to associate it with a feeling you get from going through a regular work week, every day felt like that vibe you get on a Thursday or Friday afternoon before a long weekend. The feeling that work, and work life responsibilities, were so far away. That this would be THE long weekend that would last forever. Know what I mean? I was conscious of this, and I loved it. Days of the week would cease to matter. You woke, you travelled, you explored, you met new people, you went to bed. There was no reason to pay attention to the calendar.

The bench seats became beds. I had some marvellous sleeps on those bench seats. I remember lying there, most usually parked outside a Walmart or sometimes on the curb in the suburbs beside the house of the gracious fan who hosted an after party, sort of laughing and smiling to myself. This is the path we had chosen. Me and three close friends of mine were actively pursuing this sort of nomadic lifestyle, and in my eyes we were doing it with ease. I would generally wake up with this same sense of humour and accomplishment. Just like the sun rising, it would dawn on me again that here we are…living in a van…and as I’d zombie walk into the Walmart, or nearest Tim Hortons, for a coffee and public washroom cleaning/toothbrushing session I’d think to myself: “our day jobs are a thing of the past.” All of my problems, drama, and concerns were left behind in my apartment. I never took that feeling for granted. You see, as soon as you jumped in that van on the first day of tour it was sort of like all these ropes that were tethering you down were cut away, and you were free to just float along, taking in the world instead of trying to force it to work for you. There would sometimes be all kinds of worries before you actually left. Deciding what to bring. Do you have enough saved to pay for food? Are your bills covered? Is your relationship with that significant other strong enough to survive another tour? The list would go on. Once those doors closed though, and the tires hit the pavement, what’s done was done. There was no going back.

It was living like this that forced me to make some positive changes in my life. Living in close quarters with the same people for extended periods of time, while meeting swarms of new people on a daily basis and travelling to new areas over thousands of kilometres, means you’ll be face to face, and hand to hand, with lots of germs. There will be many handshakes and hugs with folks who may not be in the best of health. To be effective at touring, you need to be healthy.

I figured this out on our first outing and immediately started thinking about my diet in a very serious way. I’m sure every musician has caught a cold or flu while on tour and can relate to just how awful it becomes. It happened to me on the first one, and I was determined to do what I could to avoid it from there on out. This sort of analyzing of my diet may not have ever happened had I not spent a large amount of my time living in a van.

I use to weigh close to 300 pounds. I ate a lot of fast food, frozen pizzas, sandwiches upon sandwiches, and lots of other garbage. Sure, I always knew I was fat, overweight, and lowering my life expectancy, and I had tried to lose weight before, but it was really my love of touring that caused this paradigm shift. I decided to become vegetarian. It was the best way I could think of to force myself to stay away from fast food, deep fried goods, greasy pizzas and the like. I didn’t necessarily believe in all the political and moral reasons of becoming a vegetarian (I could rant about the reasons that I do agree with but not now) I was mainly in it for the health. And it worked. Though I’m no longer a vegetarian I cut my weight down from 300 to 208 pounds. I mean, ya, I exercise now, and I’ve learned a few other health related things, but if I had not spent time living in a van I may have never been sent down this path. I could very well still be 300 pounds, nearing 30, with busted ankles and knees. I’m so grateful that I am not.

Shedding my possessions was another realization. We’re all guilty of it. We collect things, we feel pride about our things, and we worry like hell that someone might steal and/or damage these things. They’re beautiful to us. They shine, shimmer, make noises, contain 1’s and 0’s, and bring some of us a great deal of satisfaction. So, I was a little surprised to find out that by living in a van for extended periods of time didn’t lead me to worry constantly about these things that were way back home, not under the guard of my watchful eye. Here I was, with a bookbag full of clothes, my laptop computer and my toiletry bag, and yet I didn’t feel a longing for my other collections and possessions. It was actually relieving to have them so far away. That was a big realization to me. I remember thinking, and vocalizing to some friends, that one of the best things about finally having hit the road for an extended tour was that I learned just exactly how little you really need to live, get by, AND be happy. I’d found this absolute bottom line and now I feel sort of insulated from ever being worried about ever “going without.” It seems difficult to explain, but if I could be so comfortable and stress free while living in a van, why would I ever need to stress out and worry about finding that “perfect apartment” ever again? Why waste time panicking about the layout of the living room, the size of the TV, the mismatched plates and bowls in the cupboards? All these things began to feel like massive luxuries.

These massive shifts in perception of how we have to live our lives are the true rewards of having the balls to get out there on the road and live like working musicians. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to live like that again, but given the right situation, I’d be all over it.

I think I’ll end this post with a song by the Canadian band “Belvedere” that seems to put these feelings into words pretty accurately.

“distractions from the ordinary
real life just not good enough
explanations hard to come by
living outside the institutions
waking in awkward situations
i wouldn’t have it any other way
i can’t recall a better time,
each day felt like the next would never come
i realize i couldn’t get enough
alternatives all felt like death
i wish i could safely say
all the right decisions were always made
ya we were young but we’re still here
happy to starve for another year
it seems so right for one to assume
that what we are is what we see
what we buy who we do
i would have ended up that way if not for those miles
those endless days
i know it’s not for everyone, empty halls,
empty stomachs, empty hopes
in retrospect we had it all
we didn’t choose this life, this life chose us long ago
a web of friends and moments impossible to let go
though we surrendered what others want to treasure
we ended up with so much more
we didn’t choose this life, this life chose us long ago
a web of friends and moments impossible to let go
though we surrendered what others want to treasure
we ended up with so much more”

Surviving, and Retiring, on Minimum Wage: Can You Do It?

Dem loonies add up!

Dem loonies add up!

I have to say, I live in a pretty privileged state of existence these days. The lottery of life has been so unbelievably grateful towards me that sometimes I’m in aw of the opportunities that are just handed to me. I have to admit that this wasn’t always my point of view. Like so many of us who perhaps don’t quite understand our privileged place in this world, there was a great many years where I hummed and haw’d; bitched, moaned, and felt entitled. When I think back I guess I do feel like I realized that by being in Canada, and having a radically supportive family and group friends, meant that my life could never really become that awful. I guess that’s why this topic has always interested me, a little bit, and I have to admit that my opinions on it have changed as I’ve grown older. So, let’s take a look at what the hell I’m talking about!

I see lots of people who struggle to get by, and I’ve had, and still have, some friends, acquaintances and coworkers that always seem to have financial issues. I’m sure we all know people like this. Hell, YOU may be one of those people I’m talking about. What fancy’s me though is that sometimes they’re making twice my hourly wage.

Now, of course I know everyone’s situation is different. Perhaps I’m “lucky” that mine has shaped up the way it has, but I’ve worked and planned for it to be this way. Right now I work for minimum wage. Well, that’s a lie, I work for $10.15 an hour, 15 cents ABOVE minimum wage – with another 15 cent raise coming next month. YAY! (Rolling your eyes? That isn’t a sarcastic “yay.” A 30 cent raise over a couple months is a reason to celebrate and I’ll tell you why in a future post.)

Now, I have to admit, at my age I do sometimes find myself feeling pretty down about what I’m pulling in for paychecks. I have lots of friends who have stayed on the same career path for 5+ years and are now making “big boy” money. “Big boy” money generally comes with benefits and a savings plan/pension to boot. My career path has been abnormal, and so at this point I’m technically playing financial and career catch up.

You see, I elected to be a touring Musician for most of my 20’s. This meant that unless I hit it big quickly (which I knew was not likely to ever happen) I’d be bouncing around, having to start and quit many a jobs. Most of these jobs were of course minimum wage, and I’d purposefully find something I could easily quit and walk away from when it was time to hit the road for another tour.  Sometimes I was lucky and my Manager would actually give me the unpaid time off. Those were considered jackpots jobs, in touring musician land. Anyway, that “life of a musician” post is for another day.

Alright, so here I am, creeping up on the big THREE OH and I’m still working away at minimum wage. Well, you know what, my life has never been better! It’s true. My amount of free time is at an all time high. My happiness level is superb, and I actually dug myself out of a deep deep depression about 12 months ago when I started waking up to just how awesome I really have it.

Back to how privileged we all are. The fact that someone can lead such a rich, satisfying life while only pulling in $10.15/hour is fantastic. Let’s break it down, as I’m sure some people are looking for numbers. Let’s take my monthly, reoccurring bills first. NOTE: Me and Mrs. Bastard split most bills 50/50, besides our personal phone bills. The numbers here are purely what I’m responsible for.

Rent (heat+water+utilities are included in our rent bill): $345

Internet: $30.01

Grocery: $100 ($25/week, roughly. This probably fluctuates between $20 and $30/week)

Phone: $45.8

Home/Tenant Insurance: $7.48

That’s basically it. Adding everything together we get a monthly total of $528.29. Those are the essentials that I absolutely NEED to cover. Everything else is just frozen whip cream icing on top, that kind you find on a DQ Ice Cream Cake….god, so delicious….

Ok, now let’s break down these monthly bills by the week. This is how I prefer to pay my bills anyway. I divide every bill by four and transfer that amount off into a separate account as soon as the paycheck arrives. Since I always pay off my credit card balance I’ll even transfer these weekly amounts on to the CC, effectively overpaying it, so that when the pre-authorized payments come off the card they’ve already been paid for. This is the best way for me to keep track of my Income and Spending.**

So, let’s see what we end up with.

Rent: $86.25

Internet: $7.76

Grocery: $25

Phone: $11.45

Home/Tenant Insurance: $1.87

What does this tell me? It tells me that I need to work at least 14 hours a week*. That blows my mind. I’m sitting here in my roomy two bedroom apartment in the middle of one of the major cities out here on the East Coast. My fridge is full of fresh veggies, milk, eggs, sauces and other goodies. The freezer is full of chicken, tofu, frozen veggies and cookies. Over on my kitchen counter the brewery is fermenting away with an endless supply of Frugal Brew Cider. The radio is on, Mrs. Bastard is putting together one of her fabulous knitted creations, and our cat, aptly named “Mr. T” because of the fools he’s constantly pitying, is relaxing at her feet. This is all provided to me, worry free, while only working 14 hours a week at MINIMUM WAGE! Amazing right? Let’s keep going down the rabbit hole.

Now, if you’re lucky enough to be working full time – I am not, I average between 22 and 30 hours a week – then that means you have an extra 26 hours a week of pure, excess income. If you follow the advice of one of my favourite bloggers, Mr Money Mustache, then you could be socking away this extra $260 a week. Assuming you do this and you don’t give into the lifestyle inflation that is easily accessible when 65% of your paycheck is technically “excess” income, you could RETIRE in 10.5 years. Yup, did you read that right? Seems crazy eh? Trust me, I felt the same way. Think about that for a second…working minimum wage, retire in 10.5 years. This also assumes you don’t receive any raises, which you almost certainly will.

So, ask yourself, how many people do you know who are struggling to make ends meet, yet are making good money? Are you one of them? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s time to change! If the math works on minimum wage, then anything above should be an absolute breeze. Now I know everyone’s situation is different. I’m extremely lucky to have found another frugal minded person in Mrs. Bastard. Someone who shares my goals and ambitions, and doesn’t need to spend money frivolously to have fun. We’re also both lucky in the sense that we’ve been able to stay relatively financially commitment free for most of our lives. We’re lucky to have been able to avoid this even before becoming financially literate. No cars bought on credit, no mortgage, no revolving credit card/line of credit debt (sort of…maybe I’ll mention it later), minimal student loan situations, and no planned or unplanned children. This is not the case for a lot of people, and the recurring bills I described above could be a fraction of what some of you may need to cover. However, I really believe that a lot of these supersized bills may have more to do with reckless spending and the sense of entitlement that comes with our fantastic North American lifestyle.

Let’s take a step back and analyze what we’re all doing with our money. It all boils down to this: an hour of work equals an hour of your life. You’re very finite life. A life that is ending, right now, as you read this. What is your hourly wage? If you could whittle your expenses down to something similar to mine how long would you have to work before you could retire? I have a handful of friends that make $25 an hour (maybe more), and if they chose to live a similar life to mine, spending money wise, their savings rate would be north of 85 percent, meaning they could retire in three to four years. I fully admit that there’s lots to learn when it comes to how I got to those retirement numbers. I’ve spent lots of my free time learning about investing, but it’s completely worth it. And, really, in the end it’s not difficult at all. I mean, you’ve probably done the math right now and feel like the amount you’d have saved in my scenario – 65 percent savings rate on minimum wage – seems small, and maybe you’re in disbelief of the retirement math. The numbers have been written about so eloquently by many other better blog writers then myself that I’m not even going to attempt to regurgitate them. Below you’ll find some crucial reading that will help to explain it all. You’ll likely find yourself obsessed with these blogs as time goes by. Getting excited? I fucking hope so!


 

Mr Money Mustache – The Shockingly Simple Math b=Behind Early Retirement

Mr Money Mustache – How Much Do I Need for Retirement?

Early Retirement Extreme – The 21 Day Makeover

Early Retirement Extreme – How I Became Financially Independent in 5 Years


 

*Sure, these calculations are made pre-tax, but you guys are smart enough to realize that.

**It’s worth noting that because there’s 52 weeks in a year, and only 12 months, there are a couple months a year where you get an “extra” paycheck. By transferring bills weekly (or bi-weekly, since that’s how most companies pay out) this effectively puts you a head of the game, and you’ll sort of always be ahead of your bills. This can skew the “expenses” on a monthly basis though, as you’ll see in my Income and Spending from July 2014.

MR T!!!

MR T!!!

July 2014 Income and Spending

I thought it would be curious to start posting my income and expenses, on a monthly basis, both as a point of reference for you readers and as a way for me to publicly keep my shit in line…as best I can. I have to admit, this is probably the weirdest month I could have started on. Me and the Mrs. Bastard just moved into a new place so we’re just getting use to some of the new bills. We also had to pay a doublewhammy in terms of our rent because the security deposit is equal to one full month, effectively making us feel like we paid rent twice. We get it back when we move out of course, but at this point it still feels like another expense…money that up and vanishes like a fart in the wind. Along with the rent situation we had to order “new” internet service, and I also haggled my phone carrier to drop my monthly bill from $55/month down to $40. WIN! I’ll be explaining my “bill paying” philosophy in a later post, so I won’t worry about that now.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the numbers.

INCOME

Paychecks: $1426.59
Tips: $7.35
Other: $235.91 (This includes the odd cash I get from music gigs, and from the Mrs. Bastard when she needs me to order her something with my Visa…it’s a little misleading.)
Interest/Dividends: $64.43

Total: $1734.28


 

EXPENSES

Food

Juice for Booze: $36.05 (this is the “Cider Fund” for our delicious Frugal Home Brew!)
Coffee/Snacks: $37.14
Groceries: $82.37
Booze: $67.86
Fast Food/Restaurants: $122.20

Bills

Cell Phone: $60.05
Rent: $1121.25
Tenant Insurance: $9.35
Internet: $69.88

Transportation

Taxi Rides: $24
Bike Maintenance: $65.12 (Purchased my first headlight for night time commutes to work! Excited for this thing to arrive!)
Public Transit: $2.75

Home Supplies and Maintenance

Laundry: $10
Kitchen/Bathroom supplies: $19.28

Miscellaneous

College Application Fees: $100
(Whoa! College you say?! YUP. More to come on that one later on.)

Total: $ 1827.30


 

INVESTMENTS

Questrade TFSA Deposits: $676.55


Alright, so there it is! Now, as I mentioned, this really is a weird month for bills. It looks like I spent more then I earned, but that’s actually not the case. The rent also seems CRAZY! high, but it really isn’t. In Mid-June, when we knew we were moving into this place, the Mrs had a little more disposable income then the Bastard here, so she slammed down $690 to cover the Security Deposit and to hold the place for us. I agreed to pay both of our share of rent for the month of July, to balance it all out. And again, like I mentioned above, I have a particular bill paying/transferring philosophy that I’ll be explaining later. Likely in the next post.

As I’m sure many of you know, moving is always a stressful time. So, some of those expenses were definitely move related! We also had some family down and visiting from Ontario, so we splurged abit on restaurants and alcohol. The Coffee/Snacks department was a little high in my opinion too. We brew up tasty coffee at home, and we can make a batch of delicious popcorn, so there’s no reason to spend that much on frivolous chips, candy, and Tim’s. I’ll blame this one on the buzzes we got from indulging abit too much in store bought alcohol this month! ha.

Even though it was a hectic month I’m still really excited to see that I was able to save and invest $676.55! That’s my favourite part of this whole game. Keeping tabs on what I’m able to save and invest. As soon as the money ends up in the Questrade account I end up picking up more ETF’s, courtesy of Vanguard Canada. So exciting!

Well, that’s it from your friend The Frugster today.

How do my income/expenses compare to yours? Any tips and tricks you care to share?