FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

Q3 2020 Update (End of Summer)

mika lost lake whistler

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…

Life update

While COVID was an always-present concern, we still made the best of our summer:

Local hikes and walks

beaver lake stanley park

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

mika in the shade

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’s quirkiness

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.

Investing update

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

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.

Spending update

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!

Eating out

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 whistler

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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  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    October 9, 2020 at 3:34 am

    Great update Chrissy it really has been a wild 2020. We had some turnover in our rental properties as tenants decided to buy their own homes. What we thought we be a difficult time to find new tenants proved not to be so we were very lucky there.

    In the beginning of the pandemic our food bill seemed to be higher than expected but that past few months we have been under budget so I’m very happy with that.

    Like you our travel budget has been slashed this year due to lack of ability to travel. We decided to save more and put that extra money towards our long term goals. Travel will come back eventually and when it does we will be ready.

    • Reply
      October 9, 2020 at 8:36 pm

      Hi Maria—what a happy story that your tenants are moving out because they can now afford to buy! That’s not what most of us expected to see during this pandemic. It’s amazing as well that you’ve had no problems filling their vacancies as soon as they leave. What a relief!

      It’s interesting to hear how everyone’s spending has changed during this very strange year. Like you, we’ve also put our travel money towards more savings. That’s a small bit of comfort as we wait things out.

  • Reply
    October 9, 2020 at 5:06 am

    I missed you! Glad you had a wonderful summer with your family ☀️
    We are still in lockdown in Melbourne with a 5km from home restriction … so still no travelling, even within the state. I envy your dining out on patios and family get together 🙂

    • Reply
      October 9, 2020 at 8:43 pm

      Hi Latestarter—it’s sure nice to be back. 🙂 I didn’t realize just how strict your restrictions were—5km from home is not far!!! You can’t even make it across Vancouver in 5km! And it’s not even a big city!

      We’ve been very lucky to have relatively loose restrictions—even in the beginning. However, numbers continue to go up, so there may be more shutdowns soon. We’re heading into cold weather now, so it’ll be interesting to see the differences in how our opposite hemispheres do in the coming months.

      I hope you’re staying healthy and safe. ♥

  • Reply
    Family Money Saver
    October 9, 2020 at 8:32 am

    Great update, thanks for sharing! Our budget across the board seem to be lower except for groceries. No travel, less commuting, no formal activities, no dining out. I guess that’s the only positive is we can save now and hopefully be in a better position when things return to normal.

    Our kids are also doing online school, which is slowly getting better but is a big time commitment since they’re still at an age that they need to be monitored almost the entire time online. It’s taken time away from updates as well.

    Glad you guys got some vacation time and yes, dogs are wonderful! Can’t imagine life without ours.

    • Reply
      October 9, 2020 at 8:57 pm

      Hi Family Money Saver—you’re right that there have been few positives in this pandemic. It’s good to hear that at least some families have been able to save more.

      I wouldn’t even have attempted online schooling my kids if they were much younger! It’s very challenging with little ones, so kudos to you for taking it on.

      I didn’t know you had a dog too! Dogs are awesome. 🐶

  • Reply
    October 9, 2020 at 8:56 am

    We’ve missed you, Chrissy! Glad to see that you are doing so well and finding the positives where you can. You truly live in a wonderful place to be “quarantined”! We were actually pretty happy to have a forced summer at home in Santa Monica until all the fires happened – it feels like one huge practical joke from planet Earth having travel bans + trail closures. But we will keep fighting, finding the positives, and trying to put as much good into the world as we can. Stay safe Chrissy!

    • Reply
      October 9, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      Aww, thanks Elise! I’ve missed blogging and am happy to be back, even if it’s still inconsistent. I’m so sorry that you’ve had such a terrible summer. With all that was already happening, and then those awful fires (that are still raging). It must feel like the world is imploding around you. I hope for some peace and rest for California soon.

      If anyone is able to stay positive and continue to spread joy through challenging times, it’s you. Keep fighting—this won’t last forever.

  • Reply
    Money Mechanic
    October 9, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    The Train wreck trail is super cool. Do you still have to walk a way down the active rails?

    I like the way you put this. Maybe we should EFIC it…

    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.

    • Reply
      October 9, 2020 at 9:06 pm

      Hey MM—yeah, the trail is so cool. It’s about a 20-minute, very easy hike down to the wreckage site. On the way, there’s a beautiful little suspension bridge to get over the river. A very enjoyable outing.

      Oooh… good idea for EFIC! Let’s do it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Torrie @ To Love and To Learn
    October 9, 2020 at 7:28 pm

    Great to see you back with a new update! We’re currently homeschooling my oldest, who entered kindergarten this year. That was never in The Life Plan For Our Family, but this year has taught us all to be a little more flexible with our idea of control, ha ha 🙂 All in all, it’s actually going really well, though it is VERY time-consuming!

    We’re about to close on a new house, so our finances have been all over the place. It will be nice to be settled somewhere again for the long haul though, just because we’ve been in limbo for several months now.

    Excited to see the posts you have coming up!

    • Reply
      October 9, 2020 at 9:19 pm

      Hi Torrie—thank you for the warm welcome back! Homeschooling a kindie is a HUGE task. Little ones need so much hands-on help to learn at that age. It’s rewarding, important work, but it’s not easy! Bravo to you for diving in and doing it.

      And oh my, your new house is almost yours! I know I read on your blog that you were looking… this is such exciting news. It’ll be so good for you and your family to finally settle in, especially with the world so topsy-turvy right now. Good luck with the move, and take care of yourself. It’s a busy time for your family. ♥

  • Reply
    Reverse The Crush
    October 11, 2020 at 4:54 am

    Great update, ESB! This is like documenting history. It will be really interesting to read through this down the road once the pandemic is over. Sounds like a busy summer overall and it sounds like you made the best of it. Crazy that it’s been a year since you got Mika. The market has been crazy, I’m keeping the long-term view as well. For a family, your groceries seem surprisingly low. As for me, it’s been busy because I’ve been working more. But it’s been a new experience working from home. I’ve managed to save a lot more on costs. Have a great week!

    • Reply
      October 11, 2020 at 8:55 pm

      Hey Graham—I never thought about my updates as documenting history, but you’re right, they are. We’re all living through a moment that will be written about in history books for decades to come. It’ll be very interesting to look back on this in 10, 20, or 30 years. I can’t even imagine what the world might be like then.

      It’s true, our groceries tend to be on the low side! A lot of it is due to us stocking up when there are sales and being able to buy in bulk. (Which isn’t as easy to do when you’re single or a couple.) It also helps that my MIL loves to cook and shares food with us often! I should write a post sometime about how we save on groceries.

      It’s great that you’ve been busy! That means you’re earning more to put towards growing your dividend income. 🙂

  • Reply
    October 13, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Nice to see your update! I’m glad you were able to find some joy in this crazy summer. I’m impressed with your grocery and restaurant spending. We have been spending more on both since Covid but of course less on other things we would have done like vacations and summer camps. Looking forward to reading more about schooling. My kiddo’s district is providing online learning and just started in person learning for those who want it. We’re staying online.

    • Reply
      October 13, 2020 at 8:36 pm

      Hi Amelia—thanks for stopping by! I just read your update post and it also sounds like you made the best of summer. I hope you get your pool walls soon!

      Most families didn’t choose the online school option here. I only know of one other family in our circle who’s doing it. I’ll be interested to hear how things go for Root Jr!

  • Reply
    Gean @ F.I.R.E. We Go!
    October 16, 2020 at 7:27 am

    Great update Chrissy. When comparing our portfolio with yours, that’s exactly what happened. Increase in August and a tiny decrease in September. I will check Jeremy Siegel’s book – thanks for recommending. 🙂

    Stay safe!

    • Reply
      October 16, 2020 at 5:58 pm

      Hi Gean—it’s an interesting year for investing, that’s for sure! The Jeremy Siegel book was a good read. A little bit dry, but excellent info to help develop a long-term mindset. Thanks for coming by and commenting, my friend!

  • Reply
    October 16, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Sounds like you’ve been busy in a great way. It’s been a busy and wild time for most of us. Unfortunately, we haven’t ventured out on any special outings but I enjoyed hearing about yours. You have a gorgeous backyard with no need to travel too far.

    I’m so glad to hear Mika has settled in well with the family– they can’t help but win our hearts. Wishing your kids a good school year. Mine are doing distance learning for the first semester and doing well. We’re waiting to see if it will be extended for the second half of the year. One day at a time…

    Have a wonderful weekend 🙂

    • Reply
      October 16, 2020 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Ana—I know your family usually enjoys taking trips together in the summer, so I’m sure it was quite a different kind of summer for you. Let’s hope for a return to normal in 2021. 🤞

      Your kids seem to have taken very nicely to distance learning. I think it helps a lot that they’re older, like my kids. It’s a lot tougher with little ones, mostly because of their very short attention spans!

      I’d love to hear more about how your family’s doing. Maybe a fall update is in order? 😊

  • Reply
    October 17, 2020 at 10:28 am

    A wild year it has been indeed. Unfortunate that even in a mild wildfire year for Canada, we still get plenty of smoke (it made its way up here to Prince George as well, and the jet stream brought it even all the way to our relatives back in Germany & Switzerland). Looking forward to your article about online school. This must be an interesting time for school-aged parents…

    The Whistler train wreck trail looks like an excellent destination for a little excursion. As a fan of both good graffiti and nature I’m a bit sad we didn’t know to stop there on our way to the island this summer. Something to look forward to for future trips!

    PS: Thanks for the shout out!

    • Reply
      October 17, 2020 at 10:42 pm

      Hi Ellie—I hadn’t heard that the wildfire smoke had reached Europe as well. That’s shocking, but it shows how very interconnected we really are.

      The train wreck trail was so fun. It’s part of a large trail network, so you could do it as a quick stop or make an entire day of it. I hope you get to see it next time you’re in the area!

  • Reply
    October 20, 2020 at 8:22 pm


    Glad to hear that Q3 turned out O.K. for you and yours! Sounds like you guys managed to focus on what’s important: family and health. Glad you stayed out of the market gyrations, looking back, I’m sure you’re happy you did so. 🙂

    Sounds like that trip to Whistler really helped keep your mood in check, it looks like a gorgeous place to see. We’ve been meaning to ski out in the Vancouver area for years, but just haven’t had the chance. Perhaps when life is back to “normal”!

    • Reply
      October 20, 2020 at 8:36 pm

      Hi Chris—thanks for stopping by! Q3 was indeed a good one for us; hopefully Q4 will be just as good. Whistler skiing is excellent, but SO expensive. If you ever come up, you should try some of the mountains in the Okanagan. Less crowded and a lot more affordable (but much chillier—bring lots of warm gear)! I hope you and Jenni are well.

      • Chris@TTL
        October 25, 2020 at 3:48 pm

        We’ve got friends who used to live in Vancouver and they also recommended Okanagan.

        We’ll definitely keep it in mind 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion/reminder about it!

  • Reply
    T on FIRE
    October 23, 2020 at 9:25 am

    There is so much information in this post, it’s hard to comment on just one thing. Firstly, I’m SOOO happy to hear that your decision to adopt Mika is working out for you. We’ve been waffling on getting a pet for over a year, and it would be nice to have this kind of opportunity to push us into it so we don’t have to actually go out and find a pet. We are so terrible at making these kinds of things happen. At least I added a “Pet Fund” category in YNAB as a starting point. I hope online schools are going well! Your local travel efforts are very inspiring. I need to book a day trip somewhere this fall to give us something to look forward to. And I really liked your investment update – I am committing to figure out how to accurately calculate my gains and losses to track this better…overall great life update!! Take care of yourselves 😀

    • Reply
      October 23, 2020 at 8:57 pm

      Hey T—yeah, I really packed a lot into this one update, LOL. A YNAB pet category is a huge step in the right direction. That’s a very responsible, FI thing to do! I’ll eagerly watch for new pet updates on your blog.

      I’m working on the finishing touches of my online schooling post, so you’ll get a full update on that soon!

      My investing tracking is so simple… I have a spreadsheet where I list all our investment accounts, and it just tallies up all the balances when I update it every month. It’s not accurate in that it also includes our contributions, but I’m too lazy to figure out what our market gains are! The way I do it is fast and simple, and for me, it’s good enough!

      I hope you and your family are doing well in your Maritime bubble!

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