Mika soaking up the sun at Lost Lake in Whistler
I can’t believe it’s October already—where’d the summer go?! And the even bigger question: what happened to my monthly updates?! The short answer: life happened.
Fortunately, it wasn’t anything bad. On the contrary—things have been good. It’s just been really busy! I’ll fill you in below…
While COVID was an always-present concern, we still made the best of our summer:
Local hikes and walks
Beaver Lake, Stanley Park with my sister and her famiily
My twin sister’s a teacher, which means she gets summers off. We don’t see each other much during the school year, so we and our kids try to spend lots of time together in the summer.
This year, we met up just about every week to explore some local trails and walking paths:
- Stanley Park (seawall, beaches and inner trails).
- Pacific Spirit Park.
- Various parks on the North Shore.
- Burnaby Mountain.
- Granville Island and False Creek.
Initially, having to stay local was a bit of a bummer. But in the end, it was a major positive: I now have a much greater appreciation for the abundance of greenspace around us. 🙂
Other outdoor fun
M, the boys, Mika and and I also met up with friends and family for other physically-distanced outdoor fun:
- Exploring the UBC campus.
- Staying up late to see Comet Neowise.
- Backyard dinners.
- Family picnics at neighbourhood parks around Vancouver.
- Patio dining downtown.
- Two nights in Whistler.
Summer always reminds me why I adore Vancouver as much as I do. It’s gorgeous here in the summer and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. (But if you talk to me in November, I may be singing a different tune. That’s when Vancouver turns back into Raincouver!)
While I was grateful that our wetter-than-average summer meant fewer wildfires in Western Canada, our neighbours to the south suffered greatly. It’s heartbreaking to hear what residents of California, Oregon and Washington have been through.
Growing up, I don’t remember wildfires being much of an issue. In recent years, horrific wildfires have become an annual occurrence. Even those who live far from the fires are still affected by the smoke. (For a few days in September, Vancouver had the worst air quality in the world.)
If this record-setting season of wildfires isn’t a sign we need to save our planet, I don’t know what is. It’s further increased my resolve to fight climate change however I can. I’ll continue to look to my online eco-fighter friends for ideas and motivation to keep fighting:
One year with Mika
In The Saga of Mika the Shiba Inu, I wrote about our drawn-out decision to adopt our dog Mika from M’s cousin. At the time, it was still early days. We hadn’t been through every season with Mika, so there was still a lot that was unknown.
Well, August 8th marked one year since we officially adopted Mika (yay)! We’ve now experienced more than a year of dog ownership… and you’re probably wondering how it went. If I could sum it up in one word, I would say, ‘wonderful’.
The perfect addition
Mika’s the perfect addition to our family. She’s spoiled rotten, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The boys adore her and love having a crazy, furry little sister to play with. M (who won’t openly admit it) has also fallen for her—and even lets her sleep on our bed sometimes!
For me, I love how Mika’s changed our family dynamic in such positive ways. We have so much fun doing new things with her and seeing her react to different experiences. It’s like seeing the world through a toddler’s eyes again.
We’re getting out more
Mika also gives us an excuse to get outside every day, multiple times a day, rain or shine. (Mika, like most Shibas, avoid doing their business in or anywhere near their homes. That means we have to walk her three times a day!)
With all these walks, we’ve met more of our neighbours this past year than in our previous nine in this house! It’s also been the perfect way for the boys to get some physical activity everyday—especially this year as they learn from home.
Mika makes us laugh from morning to night with her silly antics. And she keeps us on our toes as we learn about the quirky traits of Shibas (and how to better work with them). They don’t call Shibas cat-dogs for nothing—they’re very independent, stubborn, and aloof!
Yes, Mika can drive us crazy with her occasional naughtiness (like not coming when called) but on the whole she’s a very easy, almost-perfect little doge. It’s hard to imagine life without her, now that she’s fully entrenched in every bit of our daily lives!
Back to school
I spent most of August and September researching, planning, and setting up my kids for remote learning. Right up to the last minute, we held out hope that our province and school district would offer a reliable form of online education for the kids.
That didn’t happen, so we made the tough decision to withdraw our kids from their schools and enroll them in online schools for the 2020–21 school year. We risk losing their spots at their home schools next year, but it was a risk we were willing to take.
I have a lot more to say about this, and will share details about our decision in a separate post.
It was another strange and unpredictable quarter for our investments:
Long-term mindset = long-term wealth
As the stock market continued its wild, nonsensical gyrations in Q3, I was again glad that I’ve learned to ignore the noise. For me, having a long-term investing mindset is the best way to inoculate myself against emotion-led (aka poor) investment choices.
Knowledge (from the right sources) is the best way to develop just such a mindset. To grow your long-term investing mindset, I highly recommend these reads:
- The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
- Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth by Nick Murray
- Stocks for the Long Run by Jeremy Siegel
Our investment performance
As mentioned, Q3 was crazy, and our portfolio went along for the ride:
- July: -1.89%
- August: +2.9%
- September: +0.2%
July saw a modest increase. August saw our portfolio reach its highest point ever. Then, September brought another small increase and a new record high for our portfolio.
(We actually should’ve seen a small drop in September due to the big sell-off of tech stocks. But M received a batch of ESPP shares in late August, so it helped to bump up our totals a bit.)
Related: The Ultimate Guide to ESPPs and RSUs
It’s been a crazy year already… who knows what’s ahead in Q4, with the US election and predicted second wave of COVID on the horizon?
Still feeling torn
I remain torn about the stock market’s incredible performance. How can this be right, when world economies continue to falter and so many are suffering and unemployed? This, once again, shines a light on the huge wealth disparities in our world.
It’s hard to know how to help, other than donating to those in need and supporting small businesses. But after giving it some thought, I realized there’s another small contribution I can make.
It’s something I can give freely and to as many people as I can find to share it with—my personal finance knowledge. I strongly believe that:
- Basic personal finance skills can help someone avoid financial hardship.
- Intermediate skills can get them on a strong financial footing.
- Advanced skills could lead to long-term sustainable wealth.
I know that there’s a lot more to building financial resilience—there are also systemic issues at play. But we have to start somewhere. If each of us can help to educate and lift up a few other people, that wave of goodness will spread to others. That’s my hope, anyway.
If you can, take some time to share a bit of your knowledge. Find someone who could use the help and change their financial life for the better.
From July to September, some of our spending returned to normal or went up, while other areas remained lower than average.
Earlier in the pandemic, our grocery spending went way down. But in Q3, it went slightly over our pre-COVID average of $550/month:
- July: $562
- August: $620
- September: $617
- AVERAGE: $599/month
We’re continuing to do most of our grocery shopping online, and whenever possible, we’re still shopping local and small.
Pre-COVID, our average monthly spending on gas was $250. Our Q3 gas expenses were pretty much in line with that:
- July: $266
- August: $284
- September: $233
- AVERAGE: $261/month
At the start of the pandemic, we spent almost nothing on gas since M was working from home and I barely left the house. However, summer always means a lot more driving, with me taking the kids out and M driving his classic Mustang whenever he could!
This was one area where we consciously decided to splurge—partly to help out small businesses, but also because we LOVE eating out! It was fun to dine out on some patios this summer, but soon it’ll be too cold for that… so we’re glad we did it when we could.
- July: $191
- August: $428
- September: $136
- AVERAGE: $252/month
Our average for eating out pre-COVID was $200/month. I’m really surprised that our current average is only $252/month—it feels like we’ve been eating out WAY more than that!
Vallea Lumina was so enchanting!
We usually spend multiple thousands on our annual travels, but clearly, that didn’t happen this year. Instead, here’s what we spent:
- July: $0
- August: $156
- September: $693
All our travel expenses were for the two nights we spent in Whistler. In August, we purchased our tickets for the spectacular Vallea Lumina. In September, we paid for the rest of our Whistler expenses (hotel, food, drinks).
Our mini trip to Whistler was such a nice getaway. Our friends also joined us for one night, which made it extra fun. We stayed at the Crystal Lodge, which was beautiful, and so accommodating with Mika. (We were very impressed with how dog-friendly Whistler hotels are.)
On the way home, we met up with my sister and her family at the infamous Train Wreck Trail. It was a very cool experience—a must-do if you’re visiting Whistler!
This short excursion was a really great way to end the summer and helped to satiate our travel bug just a little. 🙂
And that’s a wrap!
How did Q3 go for you? If you have kids, are they back at school, or are they learning from home? What about your spending—is it up or down, or is it a mix, like ours? I haven’t chatted with many of you in a while, so leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing!
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