FI Lifestyle Personal Finance

FI Progress Update: October 2019 (When it Rains, It Pours)

October was another tough month for me (photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash)

Admitting defeat

My regular readers may have noticed yet another gap in my posting schedule recently. I’m so sorry for my absence. It definitely was not what this driven and motivated blogger wanted!

The truth is—the last few months have been very challenging for me. While I keep hoping for quieter months ahead, that’s just not realistic. Each month brings new challenges that aren’t always avoidable.

This realization led me to finally admit defeat: I can’t keep up with blogging, podcasting, and life at the pace I’ve set. But don’t worry—I’m not going away. I just need to let go of a few things and make some changes.

I’ll be giving these changes more thought, and will write an update post soon. For now, let’s get to my FI Progress Update for October.

When it rains, it pours

After the busy September I had, I was hoping for an easier October. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. Instead, October 2019 became one of the most stressful months I’ve had in a while. As the saying goes—When it rains, it pours

Here’s what happened:

Life update

More homestay students

It was too rainy to roast marshmallows outside with our homestay students, so we improvised!

At the beginning of October, we hosted two high school Japanese students for a very short, two-night stay. Tetsuya and Yoshiyuki were lovely, and all of us had a great time hosting them. (Especially Mika, who got lots of extra pats and scratches!)

There is one challenge with short-term students, though: it’s hard to say goodbye so soon! Two nights was not enough time with Tetsuya and Yoshiyuki, so we’ve made plans to see them when we visit Japan in March. We can’t wait!

Short-term vs. long-term students

Over our 10+ years hosting students, we’ve mostly preferred long-term students (stays of two months or more). Longer stays mean less disruption for our family and more time to get to know and bond with our students.

But in recent years, we’ve come to enjoy the flexibility and lower commitment of short-term students. With M travelling more often for work and the boys being busier, short-term students are a better fit right now. 

If your family is too busy to commit to long-term hosting, give short-term hosting a try! It’s not only easier to squeeze into a busy schedule, but you’ll also earn more per day than with long-term hosting.

Check out The Homestay Series to learn everything you need to start hosting students!

More house guests

We visited picturesque Steveston with our house guests

I’m an introvert. Yet I keep welcoming house guests into our home! Why do I do this?! 

Well, as with our guests last month, we had another former homestay student coming back to visit. (It’s hard to say no to students who are like family to us.)

This time, it was our Korean student, Young (who we visited in Korea earlier this year). During our 24-day visit, she and her husband tasked themselves to be our personal guides. 

Despite our pleas for them to go on with their daily lives and leave us to explore on our own, they insisted on spending nearly every day of our trip with us! 

Related: Korea Trip Report

Returning the favour

Young and her husband were so generous, and we wanted to repay their kindness. When they said they planned to visit Vancouver in the fall, there was no question that we’d invite them to stay with us. 

They accepted our invite, and stayed in our house for twelve nights (minus three nights in the middle when they visited the Rockies). 

We packed a lot of fun into their visit! There were several all-day outings, movies in M’s man cave, evening beers and snacks with M, and a big potluck dinner with our families. (Young also grew close to them when she lived with us as a student.)

It was wonderful seeing Young again, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not completely wiped out. My introvert batteries are seriously in need of a long recharge! 

More stress: my dad’s medical scare

On the same day that Young and her family arrived, my dad had a serious medical issue. My sister, who lives the closest to him, took him to the ER at 11 pm. After a six-hour wait and a brief checkup, our dad was sent home, but without having all the proper tests done. 

At 3 am the next night, he had another scare and called my sister to take him back to the hospital. Thankfully, the issue resolved itself after a few minutes and they were both able to go back to bed.

In the morning, my sister called to tell me what happened. I immediately called M’s brother (who’s a specialist doctor). He advised us to take my dad to another ER to have a more thorough exam and imaging. 

Stress upon stress

All this happened as M and I struggled to help Young and her family book a rental car. They’d planned to drive to the Rockies the next morning, and needed a car that evening

Not only was this very last-minute, but it’s very hard to find rental cars with snow tires in Vancouver. M started phoning rental companies to try and reach the local branches to confirm they had cars with snow tires. 

This turned out to be crazy-making. Every company sent him in endless loops in their phone system, with one agent giving completely different info from the next.

All the while, I was on my phone trying to coordinate things with my dad, sister, and M’s brother… while also trying to load the dishwasher and clean up the mess from dinner the night before!

OMG, talk about stress. 

After two hours, we finally got everything dealt with, and I took off to pick up my dad. I spent the rest of the day driving him to and from the hospital while M took our boys, Young, and her family out. (Thank goodness for my helpful, understanding husband!)

Bad, but good news

A week and a few tests later, we learned the cause of my dad’s worrisome symptoms—he has bladder cancer. Thankfully, it’s at a very early stage, and bladder cancers generally don’t spread. So it’s bad, but good news.

My dad will undergo surgery to have the tumour removed later this month, with a follow-up in December. His urologist is quite confident that removing the tumour will take care of the cancer for good. Thankfully, that means it’s unlikely that my dad will need CT scans or any further treatment.

Needless to say, it’s been an emotional couple of weeks. Having already lost our mom to lung cancer ten years ago, all the worries and fears came rushing back. While awaiting my dad’s test results, our thoughts jumped to the worst.

A wake up call

As we considered the worst-case scenario, we realized this was an important wake up call. It prompted M, my sister, and I to start planning for how to handle things if my dad ends up needing more of our help.

Fortunately, M and I are aligned on just about everything. This includes the desire to care for our parents when they need us. He’s fully on board to do everything we need to care for my dad, even if it means he needs to move in with us. 

As for my sister, I know without a shadow of a doubt that she’ll be there to help. We’re both fully prepared to support our dad and each other—no matter what. 

We’re also fortunate to have other wonderful family members to count on: my brother and his wife, M’s mom, and M’s brother (who drops everything to help when a family member has a medical issue).

I can rest easy, knowing that if worse comes to worst, we’ll all be there to support each other.  

Our Dad’s just fine

Thankfully, my dad isn’t in any pain and feels completely healthy and normal. In fact, at nearly 70 years old, he’s fitter than many 20-somethings! (He walked the entire Camino de Santiago a couple of years ago. And he rides and/or hikes at least 20 kilometres every day!) 

I suspect this cancer diagnosis will just be a small blip in his life, and that he’ll be kicking around well into his 100s. 

Caring for our parents

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. FIREfly for Explore FI Canada. (Episode to drop in the next couple of months). She’s an excellent writer, and if you haven’t yet discovered her blog, I urge you to check it out!

In one of her recent posts, FIRE Considerations—Health and Help, she writes about caring for our parents (or ourselves) in old age and how we may need or want to factor this into our FI plans. 

It’s an excellent read, and something I hadn’t previously considered. Even if your parents are still young and healthy, it’s never too early to get prepared.

Halloween

Okay, enough of the tough stuff. Let’s lighten the mood with a fun Halloween picture:
Our student Young's son as Black Panther, Mika as Wonder Woman, and Kid 2 as Marshmello

A thrifty costume

M and Kid 2 spent a few weeks working on a Marshmello costume (which was made entirely from upcycled or thrifted items):

  • The helmet was an old paint bucket that M cleaned and cut down. He then trimmed out eye and mouth holes and left Kid 2 to sand down the rough edges. 
  • Next, M covered the eye and mouth openings with leftover window tinting that he applied to clear plastic salad boxes. (We would’ve just recycled the boxes, so it was nice to give them another life.) 
  • Inside the helmet is an old bike helmet (which was necessary to keep it steady on Kid 2’s head). The helmet is attached to the bucket with some Velcro we had lying around. 
  • The white hoodie was purchased for $2 from a thrift store and the pants are part of a karate uniform that the boys were no longer using. 
  • Since the karate pants were too wide for the Marshmello ‘look’ I took them in with a few loose stitches. When Kid 2’s done with the costume, I can easily remove the stitches so the pants can be worn as karate pants again. 
  • That meant I didn’t have to cut and ruin a good pair of karate pants just for one night of trick-or-treating—a frugal and eco win!

A busy, fun night

Kid 2 had a blast going out as Marshmello, and we had a lot of fun giving Young and her family a real1 Halloween experience! (We still do the old-school house-to-house trick-or-treating through our neighbourhood.) 

Kid 2’s friend and the parents of Kid 1’s best friend also came along, which made for a rather large group of adults with only three kids! Kid 1, who’s a little too old for trick-or-treating, stayed in to watch movies with his friends. 

At the end of the night, we all returned to our house for dessert and beers. It was a fun, enjoyable Halloween… but also a late night with school/work the next day—yikes!

Did I already mention how exhausted I was in October?!

Spending update

We mostly spent less in October, but there were a couple of areas where we spent more…

What we spent more on

M’s car insurance

We paid the annual insurance premium for M's blue Mustang this month

Our biggest October expense was M’s car insurance at $1,826. (Yes—car insurance is ridiculously expensive where we live.) It gets more costly every year, even though our cars are getting older. That doesn’t seem fair!

Roof and gutter maintenance

Another area where we spent more than usual was home maintenance. We paid $250 to have a roofing company install diverters on our roof and reattach our gutters where they were loose. 

While work like this can be costly, we try to save money by teaming up with our neighbour. His house is an identical mirror image of ours, so almost everything that one house needs is also needed by the other.

We always try to get at least three quotes, then pick the best-value quote from the bunch. Next, we ask for a discount for doing the work on both houses at once. Our contractors are usually happy to give us a discount since it also saves them time and money. It’s a win-win for everyone.

What we spent less on

Groceries and eating out

Young and her husband made us some KFC (Korean fried chicken)—so yummy!

Despite having house guests, we managed to spend less on groceries ($440 vs. $550) and eating out ($90 vs. $190). 

It helped that we were able to cook most meals at home for Young and her family. It also helped that they treated us to a nice lunch in Steveston and bought groceries to cook two delicious Korean meals for us! 

Learning how to cook new dishes is one of our favourite things about hosting international students and house guests.

Gas

I was surprised that we spent the same amount as we usually do on gas ($250) despite driving Young and family around a lot. I’m not sure how this happened since gas was averaging $1.50/litre in October!

Entertainment

We spent less than usual on entertainment in October ($90 vs. $190) since we were able to do lots of free or low-cost activities. One of the free activities (which is normally very expensive) was visiting the Vancouver Aquarium. 

We were very lucky that a friend of M’s Uncle Danny works there and gave us free tickets. To show our appreciation, I bought them some treats from a fancy bakery. 

While the treats weren’t cheap ($42) they didn’t even come close to what the Aquarium tickets would’ve cost ($195). It’s also nice to see friends’ faces light up when you bring them a box of yummy baked goods!

Getting obsessive detailed in YNAB

I usually categorize bakery spending as ‘Eating Out’ in YNAB. But I put the baking for Uncle Danny and his friend under ‘Entertainment’. This is because it was really for admission to the Aquarium, not for our own consumption.

I also do this hyper-detailed categorization for other expenses—like parking or alcohol. For example, if we paid for parking to eat at a restaurant, I categorize it as ‘Eating Out’. Or if M buys a bottle of liquor as a gift for a friend, I categorize it under ‘Gift’ not ‘Alcohol’.

Some might say this is too detailed and a waste of time. But what gets measured gets managed, right? Also, small expenses add up over time. (Yes, I do believe in the dreaded Latte Factor)! 

In my opinion, detailed spend tracking is a worthwhile and important task on the path to FI.

Investing update

  • The chart displays the total value of our retirement investments. Our RESP, cash holdings, and home equity aren’t included.
  • The huge jump in February 2018 was due to us refinancing our home and investing the funds. (This leveraged investing strategy cut our time to FI by four years.)
  • The percentage at the bottom represents the growth/drop in our investments compared to the previous month. This includes investment growth/losses and any additions we made to our accounts.

It was another month of not adding to our investments and another month of ho-hum investment returns (down 0.9% from last month). But the good news is: we’re still up 12.7%* for the year! 

*My calculations also include our contributions, so our actual gain is less than this.

Blogging and podcasting update

It wasn’t just my personal life that was busy in October! There was also a flurry of activity here at Eat Sleep Breathe FI and at Explore FI Canada.

There’s too much to include in this already-long update, so I’ve moved the blog and podcast updates to their own post: Blog & Podcast Update: October 2019.

In the post, I’ll update you on everything that happened at the blog and podcast in October. Fellow bloggers may find some of the back-end things I did at ESBFI to be useful, so be sure to check out the post next week!

*I’m considering permanently separating the blog/podcast updates from my FI progress updates—let me know in the comments what you think of this change.

And that’s a wrap!

October was another incredibly busy, stressful month for me. I keep thinking there’ll be quieter months ahead, but it seems my life has a life of its own! 

What about you? How was your October? I’d love to hear about it—especially if it was less hectic than mine!

Sharing is caring…

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) Thanks for your support!

You Might Also Like

22 Comments

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    November 11, 2019 at 6:06 am

    Wow that was a busy month. As a fellow introvert I totally understand the exhaustion that comes from being around others all the time. I love that updates and look forward to the next one. Great idea separating out the personal and blogging/podcasting updates. Even if it’s only one post a month, you’re still plugging away and making progress.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 12, 2019 at 11:27 pm

      Hi Maria, thanks for the lovely comment and encouragement. You’re absolutely right that even infrequent posting is still progress! I’ll keep reminding myself of that. 😊

      Thanks for ‘voting’ on the separate blog/podcast update!

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern Fimily
    November 11, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Busy month indeed! I know how family medical scares can go so I’m sure that created a very unsettling few weeks until it all processed. Glad to hear that it’s “bad but good news”. Sounds like to need a nice slow and boring December! Fingers crossed! And yes I like the idea of splitting out the content – you know I love the podcast so a whole post dedicated to your blog and podcast sounds like music to my ears 😉

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 12, 2019 at 11:04 pm

      Court, I was thinking of you and your recent family health issues as we went through everything with my dad.

      Like you, I am so thankful that we found FI and are on the path. It means we’re financially stable enough that I’d be able to drop everything to help my dad if needed. That’s such an amazing, unexpected benefit—and we haven’t even reached FI yet!

      And thanks for your ‘vote’ on the blog/podcast updates. 👍

  • Reply
    Ana
    November 11, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Wow! That was a very hectic month. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad’s diagnosis. Fortunately, it seems that between the medical care and his family, he has the support he needs to do well. It can be a stressful time. My dad had throat cancer in his 60s. Like your dad, he’s very active and healthy which I believe is part of a good recovery. He is fine today and driving us all nuts at 91!

    On a happier note, my favorite part of your post was the Halloween costumes. Love DIY costumes and super heroes 😉

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 12, 2019 at 11:08 pm

      Ana, your dad is a trooper. Wow—91! I’m pretty sure my dad will also be driving us nuts when he hits his 90s! LOL.

  • Reply
    Latestarterfire
    November 12, 2019 at 2:47 am

    Wow, you’ve had an EPIC month! So sorry about your Dad – sending good vibes across the internet …hope everything works out with surgery and recovery. It’s good you have so much family support.

    I do what you do too – if I buy ingredients for a dinner party, then I categorise them under ‘celebration’ instead of groceries.

    And I think it’s a good idea to separate the blogging/podcasting report – then the non bloggers can skip if they don’t find it relevant but bloggers/podcasters will devour the post 😉

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 12, 2019 at 11:11 pm

      Thanks for the well wishes, Latestarterfire.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s so specific with my transaction categorizing!

      And thanks for another vote for separate blog/podcast posts… I think it’s a clear decision!

  • Reply
    Joe
    November 12, 2019 at 11:18 am

    Best wishes to your dad. That was a busy month. Hopefully, November will be easier for you. It’s okay to let a few things drop when life is that busy. You can pick it up later.
    My dad had a health scare in October tool. Luckily, we’re already booked to visit this month. We’ll try to figure some things out while we’re there. Getting old is not for wimps.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 12, 2019 at 11:14 pm

      Hi Joe, I read on your blog about your dad. I hope he’s doing better, and glad that you’ll be able to see him soon. You’re right—aging isn’t easy. 😟

  • Reply
    Kari
    November 12, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    Sorry to hear about your Dad. Hopefully they’ll get him in quickly and he has a speedy recovery.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 12, 2019 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks Kari. Thankfully, my dad’s surgery sounds pretty straightforward and the recovery should be quick.

      I’m sure he’ll be back to cycling all over the place in no time!

  • Reply
    Kris
    November 12, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    That was a busy month you had from hosting house guests to your dad’s diagnosis. When life events happened, dealing with the blog/podcast is secondary and it also makes you look into some changes in your routine to make it better for you and it sounds like you’re doing just that Chrissy!!
    Sorry to hear about your dad, best wishes to him and your family. My dad is in his 70s now and is in good shape by always running almost every morning and wanting to be active. But at the same time I get kind of worried about him because of the health history of his side of the family. His mother and older brother have passed away when they we’re in the mid to late 70s so it’s something to keep an eye on for our family.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 12, 2019 at 11:25 pm

      Kris—it’s too bad that it takes hard times like this for me to learn lessons and go easier on myself! 🤦

      My dad also has a history of health issues in his family. It’s fortunate that both our dads have taken their physical health into their own hands. They make 70 look like the new 30!

  • Reply
    Phia @ Freedom 101
    November 13, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    So sorry to hear about your Dad Chrissy. I’m glad the prognosis looks positive and that you and your sister are there to support each other, and him.

    As good as the news is in terms of outlook, it still really sucks for all of you to have to go through it, and I’m sure it’s been really hard and worrying 🙁

    I hope November brings you some reprieve from all that you’ve had on your plate! And as a fellow introvert, I can totally relate to how you would now need some time to recharge your batteries with some quiet time!

    I love the use of separate posts for your updates. I imagine it will give you a bit more freedom to dive into some of your updates in detail 🙂 I think that’s a great call.

    Sending lots of positive vibes your way, and I hope everything goes smoothly with your Dad’s surgery.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 13, 2019 at 10:43 pm

      Thank you, my friend. Your support and kind words are so appreciated. ❤️❤️❤️

      Looks like my decision to separate the blog and podcast updates is clear! Thanks for adding your ‘vote’.

  • Reply
    Fringe Doc
    November 14, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Sorry to hear about your father’s medical struggles. I hope and pray for his speedy recovery and that your family will have some time for R&R. Take care.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 14, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks for the kind words, Fringe Doc. ❤️

  • Reply
    Kate
    November 16, 2019 at 8:02 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your dad! I hope you’re right and this will just be a temporary blip in many more years of life!

    So fun to read about your homestay students! I would love to try that eventually. My family hosted quite a few international students while I was young, and it was great getting to know people from Brazil, Japan, Germany, and more. A great way to widen yours and your kids’ perspectives!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 18, 2019 at 10:32 pm

      Hi Kate—I think it’s so cool that you grew up with international students! My cousin’s wife also experienced this, and recently stayed with one of their old students in Japan. It’s amazing the lifelong bonds that can form. Thanks for coming by to comment. 🙂

  • Reply
    GYM
    November 19, 2019 at 12:06 am

    Sorry to read about your dad, good that you have health care providers in the family, helps a lot to navigate the system. That’s amazing he did the Camino a few years ago, that’s a LOONG walk AND he walks and hikes 20 km a day, he’s very fit!!

    I don’t even know who Marshmello is I am so out of touch!!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 20, 2019 at 12:08 pm

      Ha ha GYM, I’m with you on being out of touch. When I was a kid, I thought it was so uncool that my mom didn’t keep on top of the trends. I swore I’d never be one of ‘those’ moms. And sure enough, I am! If my kids didn’t tell me what was what in pop culture these days, I’d have no clue!

Leave a Reply